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December 15, 2011 at 9:25 AM

Potter pleads not guilty in Seattle schools theft case

Former Seattle Public Schools official Silas Potter Jr. pleaded not guilty in King County Superior Court this morning to several charges of theft in connection with the financial scandal that hit the Seattle Schools. (Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Former Seattle Public Schools official Silas Potter Jr. pleaded not guilty in King County Superior Court this morning in the district theft case that led to his arrest in Florida.

Potter, the central figure in the scandal, was arrested Nov. 9, less than 24 hours after he failed to appear for his originally scheduled arraignment in Seattle. He was taken into custody after a traffic stop near Tampa, where he had been living, and waived extradition.

Potter was returned to Seattle last week and booked into the King County Jail, where is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Potter, 60, headed the school district’s small-business program from 2006 to 2010 before he moved to Tampa. He is charged with nine counts of first-degree theft in what prosecutors described as a scheme to bilk the district out of $250,000.

In charges filed Oct. 25, prosecutors accused Potter and two other defendants of using a Tacoma nonprofit and a Seattle janitorial company to bill the district for little or no work. Potter pocketed a portion of the payments, prosecutors said.

The other defendants, David A. Johnson and Lorrie Kay Sorensen, pleaded not guilty last month to theft charges. Both were allowed to remain free.

The now-defunct business program was set up to help small companies primarily owned by women and minorities learn how to bid on public projects. State auditors originally raised issues about the program in February, citing $1.8 million in questionable contract work.

Comments | More in Education, The Blotter | Topics: King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Seattle Public Schools, theft

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