Former Shelley principal used school funds for personal purchases

SHELLEY — The Idaho Professional Standards Commission could suspend the administrative license of a former high school principal who admitted to using school funds to purchase over $3,700 worth of personal items.

Eric Lords

Former Shelley High School principal Eric Lords faces the prospect of losing his Idaho administrator’s license for two years after he admitted to using the school’s credit and debit cards to make a range of personal purchases, according to a stipulation agreement obtained by Idaho Education News through a public records request.

The stipulation agreement between Lords and the commission outlines purchases the former principal made “with the intent” to reimburse the school:

  • A family ski pass to Grand Targhee Ski Resort for $2,049.
  • Chrome ATV pipes for $689.99.
  • A 50-gallon water heater for $361.81.
  • Powder coating services for $319.77.
  • Lawn care services for $289.

The purchases, which took place at “various times during the school years and during the summer,” provide the commission with “probable cause” that Lords “willfully violated” two principles of the code of ethics adopted by the Idaho State Board of Education:

  • “A professional educator entrusted with public funds and property honors that trust with a high level of honesty, accuracy, and responsibility.”
  • “A professional educator exemplifies honesty and integrity in the course of professional practice.”

Lords has since paid the district $3,720 in restitution, the stipulation agreement reads. Lords signed the stipulation agreement on April 19; however, the commission has not yet approved it.

“Because the full PSC has not yet considered the draft orders and the accompanying stipulations, it should be noted that the documents being provided may be changed or rejected by the PSC,” PSC program specialist Annette Schwab told EdNews.

If approved by the commission, the agreement would strip Lords of his administrative license but allow him to keep his Idaho teaching certification. It would also require him to take a three-credit ethics course.

The PSC is an 18-member volunteer board of mostly teachers, school administrators and higher education officials. It has the authority to approve, suspend and revoke teaching and administrative licenses in Idaho.

Past financial inquiries uncovered the transactions

Lords worked as Shelley High’s principal from 2016 until December of 2018 when he unexpectedly resigned amid revelations that the school overspent by more than $44,000 in 2018.

An investigation by the school district and a “limited scope” audit by private accounting firm Wipfli LLC accounted for the overspent funds, Shelley Superintendent Brian Jolley told EdNews in March. But the audit also uncovered several transactions lacking receipts, invoices and evidence of pre-approval from the district. One of those transactions included the $2,049 Grand Targhee ski resort pass.

Issues with past transactions prompted Jolley to file reports with both the standards commission and the Idaho State Police. ISP spokesman Tim Marsano told EdNews in March that state police are investigating “allegations of financial discrepancies” at the high school.

Jolley told EdNews that he has not seen the stipulation agreement between Lords and could not comment on it.

The commission will meet to consider approval of the stipulation agreement on June 20 and 21.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed information for this report.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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