WESTPORT — He said he was “looking at donuts,” but when police searched a school maintenance worker’s phone, they found videos not of food but a Staples High student, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by the Westport News.
Paul Telep, a 52-year-old Stratford resident, turned himself in to Westport police on May 7 on stalking charges, stemming from an incident in which a school resource officer spotted him allegedly recording a female student with his work cellphone in the cafeteria.
The plumber has been on paid leave without prejudice since April 2 while the school conducts a personnel investigation, Human Resources Director John Bayers said.
According to the report, officer Ed Wooldridge went to the kitchen on April 2 to purchase a beverage when he observed Telep standing near the baked goods, with a jacket hanging over his left arm and holding a phone in his hand. The phone was pointed in the direction of two female students, Wooldridge wrote.
As Wooldridge got closer to the cashier station, Telep “appeared startled and immediately brought his phone down and began walking toward the exit,” the report says.
Wooldridge informed head custodian Horace Lewis of his observations, and then confronted Telep in Lewis’ office, asking if he had been recording the girls. Telep allegedly responded, “I may have, I was checking my phone.”
Wooldridge and maintenance workers union Vice President Calvin Terpsta later met with Telep in Principal James D’Amico’s office.
D’Amico asked Telep again if he was recording students, to which Telep responded, “I wouldn’t say I was recording students, but I use it for work,” the report says. When questioned about what he was doing in the kitchen that day, Telep reportedly said, “Looking at donuts.”
D’Amico then confiscated Telep’s work phone, as it was property of the Board of Education, and additional police were notified.
An initial search of the phone by Westport detectives found no photographs or videos of the student; however, a forensic search revealed Telep had deleted seven videos, police said. The videos, filmed over the course of about a month, all featured the same female student in the cafeteria.
In one recording, “Telep gets up from the table and walks towards the female student while recording her. As Telep gets closer, the camera stays on the female student the entire time,” the affidavit says.
Another captures the incident observed by the school resource officer, in which the video is focused on the same student. In that recording, “there is also another female student who walks up to Telep and he is heard saying ‘oh donuts.’ The video then shows this affiant (Wooldridge) walking toward Telep and then Telep starts walking out of the kitchen area and stops recording.”Read Full Article
Sgt. Jill Ruggiero and Wooldridge subsequently interviewed several of Telep’s co-workers, who allegedly said they had never seen him recording while on their coffee breaks in the Staples cafeteria.
“They were also asked if they (had) ever seen Telep with two phones and only one co-worker stated they observed him with two phones,” according to the report.
The student and her mother were notified of the findings, and the student was apparently unaware she had been recorded.
On April 11, the girl’s mother contacted Wooldridge, saying she was concerned for her daughter’s safety and would possibly be filing a restraining order against Telep, the affidavit says.
After several failed attempts to schedule an interview with Telep at police headquarters, an arrest warrant application was submitted and signed on May 3.
Telep turned himself in at police headquarters the following Tuesday and was charged with third-degree stalking.
He was released after posting $50,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in state Superior Court in Norwalk on May 16.
Though the alleged videotaping occurred at Staples, Bayers said Telep is not exclusively employed at the high school and could be assigned to different schools on different days.
However, no districtwide notice was sent to parents following the incident.
“I believe they handled it appropriately,” BOE Chairman Mark Mathias said.
PTA Council Co-President Carolyn Caney did not respond to request for comment.