- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 12, 2020

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) - A former Washington state mayor and executive director of a local economic association has been charged with first-degree theft on accusations of using association funds for personal expenses, prosecutors say.

Paul Dennis, 51, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to the accusations of stealing roughly $15,000 over a seven-year period from the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association, which he ran, according to court documents compiled by The Vancouver Columbian.

Dennis was responsible for the association’s finances, a police report said.

Dennis told The Columbian in April that the allegations stem from a civil dispute over pay and said the association still owes him $10,000. His attorney, Jon McMullen, also characterized the allegations as a civil dispute in court on Tuesday.

The association was founded in 2011 by the Port of Camas-Washougal and the cities of Camas and Washougal. It was a private organization until 2018, when officials said it should be considered a public entity, which made it subject to a state audit.

Dennis had resigned as the mayor of Camas in 2011 to head the association.

He resigned from the organization in May 2019 and the association has since been administratively dissolved.

Washougal Financial Director Jennifer Forsberg told police in March 2019 that she discovered Dennis made many personal purchases with the association’s money.

He was interviewed in January by the state auditor’s office.

Dennis “claimed little to no recollection of any of these purchases but confessed they should ‘accrue’ to him,” the state official wrote in an affidavit.

Dennis told police he kept track of money he believed was owed to him by the association.

According to the affidavit from the auditor’s office, he said he paid himself less money when he made a personal purchase.

His trial is set for November.

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