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Candidate’s spouse faces theft charge

Stevens County case involves fair funds

Mitch Jay Short, husband of 7th Legislative District candidate Shelly Short, has been charged with aggravated first-degree theft.

Mitch Short, 46, faces arraignment Aug. 26 in Stevens County Superior Court on allegations that he stole $3,318 from a volunteer fair organization.

Short is accused of pocketing money from four checks he wrote in June, July and August last year while serving as president of the nonprofit Northeast Washington Fair Association.

Shelly Short, also 46, said the criminal charge at least affords her husband the due process he was denied in months of “bantering this back and forth.”

She said she hadn’t seen the charging documents, which she indicated were served on her husband Thursday. Mitch Short was ordered to appear in court later this month to answer the charges, but has not been arrested.

“I’m really tired of the one-sided nature of this,” Shelly Short said. “This has, frankly, been nothing less than a public lynching, done to derail my campaign.”

She’s one of five candidates, all Republicans, seeking the state House seat being vacated by Bob Sump, R-Republic.

Short said she understands the implications of her husband’s decision to repay the money when challenged by fair board members, but suggested he was thinking of the campaign she had just launched.

“I think it was a mistake on his part not to question them then,” she said. “Unfortunately, that’s over and done.”

She said a Colville police detective didn’t return her husband’s calls. However, charging documents based on Detective Ron Maxey’s investigation say Mitch Short came to the police station and denied embezzling any money.

According to Deputy Prosecutor David Turplesmith, Short said he accidentally wrote two $1,318 checks last year – on June 9 and 13 – to pay the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus.

Short claimed to have delivered two $1,318 payments to the circus, thinking a two-part payment had been arranged, Turplesmith stated in an affidavit. But the circus manager told Maxey no second payment was received, and there was no circus employee still in Colville to accept it as Short stated.

Turplesmith said Short told Maxey three other cash checks totaling $2,000 were for fair business, but Short couldn’t remember where the money went. Short reportedly said he had receipts for the expenditures but threw them away in September when he resigned as fair board president.

Documents say Short repaid the duplicate circus check at the time of his resignation. He reimbursed the fair association for the other three questionable checks after they were discovered this spring.

If convicted as charged, Short could receive more than the standard sentence of up to 90 days in jail because the crime involved multiple victims and a violation of trust.

Turplesmith noted in charging documents that the Shorts were in debt at the time Mitch Short wrote the allegedly improper checks. Court records show Discover Bank won a $12,328 default judgment against the couple Aug. 17, 2007.

Asked about the judgment, Shelly Short said, “We are checking on those records to determine if that’s actually the case.

“At no point has there been any attempt to garnish and, frankly, I was not served with any documentation on any complaint.” Was she saying she didn’t know about the Discover Bank lawsuit?

“I’m telling you that I had never been served,” Short said. “That’s the distinction.”

She declined to comment further when asked whether her husband was served.

Court records show a process server delivered the complaint to Mitch Short personally on June 12, 2007, at the couple’s home at 1591 Swiss Valley Road, near Addy, Wash.

Court documents also show Superior Court Judge Al Nielson issued writs of garnishment on Oct. 23, 2007, and March 6. By the time of the second writ, the couple’s Discover credit card debt had grown to $13,323.

Discover Bank was unable to collect on either writ because the Shorts had closed their bank accounts.

“I just think that the thing has been so blown out of proportion,” Shelly Short said.

Reached by cell phone in Tonasket, she said she’s pressing ahead with her campaign for Sump’s House seat.

A Republican, she has Sump’s endorsement and years of political experience.

Short ran U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt’s Colville office for 10 years, and was U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ deputy district director for a couple of years.

She resigned this spring as state Rep. Joel Kretz’s senior legislative assistant – a state job she had held since fall 2006 – so she could run for Sump’s position.