Newest Regent is a judge, weight-loss consultant

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Josephine Finn, left, with Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—The newest member of the Board of Regents runs a consulting practice in which she charges thousands of dollars for “spiritual” weight loss sessions.

Josephine Finn, a town justice in Sullivan County and community college professor, was elected to the Board of Regents with 121 votes on Tuesday, more votes than any of the other three candidates elected.

After the Legislature confirmed Finn on Tuesday, two Democratic Assembly members came across Finn's Facebook page, which features spiritual affirmations.

One of the members shook his head, saying, “What did we do? What did we do?”

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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.

In a brief interview after her vote, Finn said she is not sure is she will continue her business.

“What I'm doing personally has absolutely nothing to do with the Regents," she said. "It's my relationship with the person, personally."

Still, her website was offering weight loss counseling services on Tuesday.

“To my subscribers, you keep coming here because your soul has been stirred,” she wrote. “It is nudging you. It is whispering a truth that you have long known.”

Finn's candidacy was rushed. She first interviewed with lawmakers on Monday, 24 hours before the elections, even though at least one Republican assemblywoman pointed out that applicants' resumes were supposed to be submitted for considered by January 31.

She said she was recruited by a friend on Friday but wouldn't say who asked her to interview.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Finn “seems very qualified.”

“I think you've seen the members, our members, are comfortable with the Regents who represent their districts," Silver said. "They've been around, they listen, they understand and that's the key thing.”

Finn's for-profit spiritual website, the Weight is Lifted, LLC was registered in February 2013 as a limited liability company to U.S. Corporation Agents, at an address in Dyker Heights.

Finn also runs a Sullivan County nonprofit called Creative Think Tank Inc. that received more than $310,000 in public money since 2008, according to her most recent tax returns. The nonprofit is almost fully publicly funded and runs a program called D.R.E.A.M. Tank, that promotes “self-esteem, dignity, social graces and other positive values in the lives of young people through enrichment and actualization programs.” It received a $40,000 grant from Sullivan County last year.

“I'm a lawyer and I'm a judge, and that other stuff is minor compared to what I do with my life,” she said. “I spend my life on the bench, and I spend the rest of my life—90 percent of it—trying to keep young people from going to jail.”

A number listed on Finn's “Weight is Lifted” for-profit website also connects to the nonprofit.

Finn, who holds a law degree from the University of Buffalo, is currently running for reelection as a town justice in Monticello. She was first elected in 2002.

--additional reporting by Laura Nahmias and Jessica Bakeman