Tyler Telford, hired in April as superintendent of East Idaho’s West Side School District, pleaded guilty last year to two misdemeanor theft charges.
School board chairman Bracken Henderson declined to comment. But Telford on Tuesday sent Idaho EdNews a statement from the board, reaffirming its decision.
“The school board has fully investigated and vetted Mr. Telford in regards to this scenario,” the statement read. “Furthermore, he was upfront about it from the very beginning of the hiring process. The information displayed online does not clearly articulate the circumstances surrounding the situation. Legal counsel has confirmed Mr. Telford has done nothing that would negatively impact his certification or his ability to fulfill his role as a superintendent. The board … has full confidence and trust in Mr. Telford’s ability in his new role as superintendent.”
In a phone interview Tuesday, Telford said, “I’m happy to explain to anybody the full story. I am not trying hide anything. I am open to answering any questions from members of the community.”
The plea deal included a withheld judgment ruling, which allows Telford to have his case dismissed once he meets the conditions of his probation and completes community service, according to Bannock County court documents. If the case is dismissed, Telford will no longer have an arrest record.
Telford completed community service in Franklin County last summer, according to the court. He is serving a “records check” probation that does not require a probation officer or monthly monitoring, just a final records check at the conclusion. His probation would end in 2024.
According to court documents, Telford maintains that he did nothing wrong. In an interview, he explained why he accepted the plea deal: “I had been drug through the civil court system for two years, so it was financially beneficial to me to avoid ongoing lawyer fees.”
The criminal case, Telford said, was the result of an unsuccessful civil lawsuit against him by the son of his tenant.
In 2020, the Bannock County prosecutor charged him with four crimes: two misdemeanor counts of “theft-petit,” one felony count of “acquire financial transaction card with intent to defraud” and one felony count of “grand theft of check or order for payment from bank or account.”
Both felonies were dismissed in 2022, but Telford pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor theft and received 24 months of probation and 40 hours of community service. He also paid a $500 fine, plus court costs.
Telford owns several duplexes in Pocatello. In 2020, an elderly tenant died in one of the residences. The elderly man — found by Telford — apparently suffered a stroke and subsequently passed away, according to Bannock County.
In Telford’s March 3, 2021 deposition, Telford discussed his relationship with the tenant, a renter for eight years. Telford said he helped the man through several situations where he was in and out of medical care. He also helped resolve banking issues, like getting new checks and setting up an online system for paying rent.
During one of those bank visits in 2019, according to Telford’s deposition, the man provided him with a debit card PIN and bank account passwords. Together, they were attempting to set up online banking but were unsuccessful. The tenant had also given him permission to pay his rent for him for the foreseeable future, according to Telford.
Telford acted as the tenant’s guardian at various times. The man had suffered multiple strokes over the previous years.
At that time there were no online accounts set up or changes made, because the tenant went back to paying rent by check.
The day after Telford found the man deceased in 2020, which happened near the end of the month, he used the man’s debit card to create a Venmo account and pay himself the past due rent in the amount of $625, according to Bannock County documents.
“So you thought you had permission to set up an account for a dead person?” Telford was asked in the deposition.
“Yes, he gave me permission to pay his rent previously in 2019,” Telford responded, according to the deposition.
In addition to the $625, Telford transferred $725 in May, according to court documents. Additional transfer requests were declined after the man’s son closed the account. The son became the executor of his father’s estate and filed the charges against Telford.
Telford has an extensive background in West Side, a rural district in Southeast Idaho, near the Utah border and about an hour south of Bannock County, where the civil and criminal cases involving Telford unfolded.
Before becoming superintendent, Telford served 11 years as principal in the district — 10 years at the high school and one at the middle school — and four years as a teacher.