MINDEN, La. (AP) — Not guilty pleas have been entered on behalf of two Cotton Valley fire officials accused of improperly spending public funds.

Assistant Fire Chief Adam Hurley appeared in district court in Webster Parish on Monday with attorney Marty Stroud, who also represents Fire Chief Dennis Meshell.

Stroud entered a not guilty plea in Meshell's absence.

The Times reports that Hurley and Meshell were arrested in March on malfeasance and theft charges.

Investigators allege approximately $50,000 in donations or reimbursements designated for the Cotton Valley fire district were diverted into two checking accounts maintained by Meshell and Hurley without the district board's knowledge.

Hurley and Meshell deny wrongdoing. Both argue the accounts have been known to many board members for decades. They have produced various meeting minutes and invoices as proof.

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