SEATTLE -- A former Seattle Public Schools official accused of taking money from a district program pleaded not guilty Thursday on theft charges.

Silas Potter Jr. was arrested last month in Tampa, Fla., after he failed to show up at his original arraignment in Seattle. He was returned to Seattle on December 8 and booked into the King County Jail.

Potter had headed a school district program, the Regional Small Business Development Program, designed to assist minority and women-owned businesses bid on school district construction projects in Seattle. He and two co-defendants are accused of bilking $250,000 from the district.

Co-defendants David Anthony Johnson and Lorrie Kay Sorensen pleaded not guilty last month at their arraignment. Potter and Johnson are each charged with nine counts of theft and face a sentencing range of 33 to 43 months in prison. Sorenson is charged with four counts of theft and faces a 6 to 12 month sentence.

The scandal led to the Seattle school board firing Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson after a state audit found the district's small-business contracting program led by Potter provided little or no public benefit.

Potter is scheduled to appear in court January 4.

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