Franklin County commissioners unanimously voted Wednesday to fire Dennis M. Huston, who is suspected of embezzling more than $1 million from the county during the past decade.
Commissioners made the decision to remove Huston from his position as the Public Works accounting and administrative director after a 30-minute closed-door session.
Huston, 65, of Pasco, has been on unpaid administrative leave from his job since last Thursday, when he was arrested on suspicion of first-degree theft, money laundering and cocaine possession.
He was released from the Franklin County jail Tuesday when the state Attorney General's Office said it needed more time to investigate before filing charges.
A suspect can be held only for 72 hours without charges being filed.
County Commission Chairman Brad Peck said Huston was fired for misconduct after reportedly admitting to investigators that he used cocaine.
"I don't imagine it comes as a great surprise given the activities of the last week," Peck said.
Officials reviewed county policies before making the decision, Peck said. Huston was not a union employee and was not part of any collective bargaining agreement.
Huston, who was paid $76,164 a year, will be notified in writing of his termination and has the option of requesting a name-clearing hearing.
The hearing gives him a chance to disagree with the board's decision, Peck said.
Eight other county employees -- most of whom work in the Public Works Department -- remain on paid leave pending the investigation. They are not accused of any wrongdoing but authorities wanted them out of the office while the allegations are investigated.
The county has notified Conover Insurance and the Washington Counties Risk Pool of the loss, but county officials are not sure yet if their coverage with either company will cover the theft, Peck said.
"It's too soon to know for sure," he said. "But of course we are asking the question."
Huston is accused of creating a bank account for Critzer Equipment, a company that went out of business in 2001. He had no association with the original company.
Documents said Huston told investigators he was using money from invoices for county payments to Critzer Equipment to buy narcotics. When he was arrested he had a blank check from the company and a small leather bag containing what Pasco police believe is cocaine.
The current allegations are similar to a 1986 federal case in which Huston was accused of using his government employment to funnel taxpayer money to himself through a company that didn't exist. A Billings Gazette article at the time reported that Huston blamed the $142,000 embezzlement on a drug problem.
He was ordered to begin serving a four-year prison term Jan. 5, 1987, but served less time and was hired by Franklin County in May 1989.
How Huston was hired still is not clear. None of the current county commissioners were in office when Huston was hired, and his personnel file has been seized by investigators.