Prosecutors have filed seven charges, including felony theft, against a former School District 2 administrator who resigned in November following an investigation into stolen district property.
Dulce Faye Whitford appeared Friday before District Court Judge Ingrid Gustafson and pleaded not guilty to felony theft, common scheme; a count of misdemeanor unsworn falsification to authorities and five more counts of misdemeanor unsworn falsification to authorities, common scheme.
Charging documents say detectives determined that Whitford stole $13,742 worth of electronics, including laptops and tablets, from the school district.
Whitford pawned the items in 57 transactions at several Billings pawnshops between June 4, 2012, and Oct. 2, 2013, an affidavit states.
Electronics at pawn shop
Billings police investigated Whitford’s conduct after electronics from the school district turned up at a local pawn shop. When news reached SD2 officials, they opened an internal investigation and placed Whitford on leave.
She resigned a few days later.
Court records say Whitford in a Nov. 19 interview with police lied about how many items she had stolen and pawned items.
An affidavit states that Whitford went to police on Jan. 7 and agreed to make a statement without an attorney present. In that statement, court records say, Whitford said she stole the property because she was struggling to pay bills and loans.
She also told a detective that an ailing family member was causing financial strain, the affidavit states. Whitford also reported to the detective that she turned to gambling to try to make money, but that it had made her financial situation worse.
Whitford directed SD2’s Indian Education For All program, the state-mandated curriculum program that teaches American Indian culture and history in the classroom. She had been with the district since 2009 and was paid an annual salary of $94,092.
Value of stolen goods
Whitford is accused of felony theft because the value of the stolen goods exceeds $1,500.
In 2011, she was named Montana Indian Educator of the Year. She was cited for her work in Billings and in Great Falls, where she taught for several years before joining SD2.
She also had taught summer school, incorporating Native culture into lessons for students.
During her time at SD2, she encouraged and celebrated the successes of Native American students through programs like an annual spring barbecue where American Indian graduates were celebrated and the high-achievers were awarded eagle feathers.
The judge allowed Whitford to remain free without bond.