Dennis Huston walked into Courtroom 3 this morning a free man. Within a half hour, he was on his way to being booked into Franklin County jail while his family tried to secure a $50,000 bond.
The former county public works accounting manager has been out on his personal recognizance, but Superior Court Judge Robert Swisher said he wanted to set a bail, “because Huston is 64, and he could spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Two weeks ago, the Washington State Attorney General charged Huston with theft, money laundering, and cocaine possession. County Commissioners fired Huston in February, after newly elected auditor Matt Beaton discovered financial discrepancies in the public works department. Prosecutors say Huston embezzled $1.7 million dollars over a ten-year period. Some reports have the figure closer to $3,000,000.
Swisher agreed with Huston’s attorney that Huston doesn’t pose any public threat, and with his family here he’s not about to cut and run. Still, the judge wanted something tangible, not just Huston’s word.
The county has also initiated a civil lawsuit to get its money back.
Questions remain about the circumstances surrounding Huston’s hiring. The public works department brought Huston aboard less than one year after Huston was released from federal prison in Montana for a similar embezzling offense while he worked for the Bureau of Reclamation.
Huston has pleaded innocent. The judge set Huston’s trial for August.