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April 8, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Ex-Seattle schools official pleads guilty to 36 theft counts

Silas Potter Jr., the former Seattle Public Schools official accused of using his position to steal from the district, pleaded guilty this morning to 36 counts of theft for stealing funds from a district program designed to assist minority-owned businesses in receiving school district contracts.

Potter pleaded guilty to 30 counts of first-degree theft and six counts of second-degree theft.

Potter was arrested over the weekend after he failed to show up to a pretrial hearing Friday in King County Superior Court. A warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Potter is scheduled to be sentenced on June 21. He faces a sentence range of 43 to 57 months in prison, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Potter, 60, is the former director of the school district’s small-business program, which had been set up to help women and minority-owned businesses win more public contracts. He is accused in a 42-count court complaint of running a scheme that bilked the school district out of $250,000 by awarding contracts to firms that did little or no work. Potter and two others are accused of pocketing some of that money. He was arrested in Florida in November 2011 and returned to Seattle to face charges.

A 2011 state audit and a report for the school district found Potter oversaw spending of $1.8 million in questionable contracts.

The small-business program grew during Potter’s tenure, from 2006 to 2010, to about a $1 million annual budget. It was supposed to help train small and minority-owned businesses in how to get district construction contracts.

But Potter was accused of approving contracts to favored businesses and consultants who charged the district inflated prices for work of little or no public value, according to the reports.

Potter told The Times in a March 2011 interview that he had been wrongly accused.

Comments | More in Education, The Blotter | Topics: embezzlement, Seattle Public Schools, Silas Potter Jr.


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