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

Former Seattle Public Schools official Silas Potter Jr. pleaded not guilty in King County Superior Court Thursday 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 he 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.

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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.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com