Town judge — and ‘spiritual’ weight loss consultant — elected to NY Regents

Josephine Victoria Finn, left, is congratulated by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Middletown, after being elected to the New York Board of Regents during a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly Chamber at the Capitol on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Josephine Victoria Finn, left, is congratulated by New York Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Middletown) after Finn was elected to the New York Board of Regents (Mike Groll/ AP)

This is a good example of why it is important to do your homework before you vote. On anything.

New York legislators elected — and last week the entire body confirmed — four new members of the state Board of Regents, which makes and oversees education policy and has been under attack for the botched rollout of the Common Core State Standards.

Three current Regents were reelected. A newcomer, who won more votes than the others, is Josephine Finn, a lawyer, town judge and former community college professor. After the vote, according to Capital New York, two Democratic lawmakers learned that she also runs a “consulting practice in which she charges thousands of dollars for ‘spiritual’ weight loss sessions, and one of them said: “What did we do? What did we do?” Capital New York reported:

Finn offers a “spiritual diet” website called “Weight is Lifted,” a limited liability company, where clients can pay $3,600 annually for personal coaching and access to her private number. For $999, clients receive personal coaching a private weekly session. There are cheaper options, for $40 a month, to participate in conference calls.”

She said she might not continue her business but felt that her personal activities were not connected to her job as a regent: “It’s my relationship with the person, personally,” she told Capital New York.

Here’s what’s may be even more surprising about her election to the regents: The Times Union reported that when Finn appeared before lawmakers in advance of the vote to talk about her candidacy for a Regents position, she “said she hadn’t really been following the raging controversy surrounding the implementation of the new Common Core learning standards.” She later told reporters she would read up on the controversy.

The legislators elected to the Board of Regents someone who didn’t have enough interest in education to be following the biggest education story in the state.

How did she get elected? The man she is succeeding, incumbent James Jackson of Albany, resigned just hours before the vote, giving no reason, although Newsday reported that the action was connected to the Common Core controversy. Newsday reported:

In recent weeks a small but growing number of Democrats had announced they would not support all four Regent incumbents for re-election, signaling a shake-up was likely. Some Democrats said their opposition reflected constituents’ ire over the Common Core. On Monday the legislature announced it was interviewing a last-minute candidate, Finn — even though interviews were supposed to be wrapped up last month. Less than 24 hours later, she was elected.

Finn has political ties: She currently services as Monticello village justice but has previously served as an assistant Sullivan County attorney. She will represent a Capital Region/Hudson Valley district.

Some New York legislators want to change the way the regents are selected by allowing voters to elect them.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · March 16