Saturday, September 28, 2013

Former teacher union boss admits to embezzlement in Wyoming

Former Wyoming Area School District teacher union president Lisa Barrett has been charged with embezzling more than $30,000 in union funds and has worked out a plea bargain with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

The U.S. attorney issued a press release and filed court documents that include information outlining the charges, the plea agreement and a statement from Barrett. The plea agreement must be approved by a judge in the Middle District court.

Barrett, a high school career technology teacher, resigned her position as union president and requested a sabbatical from work in February at the same time Luzerne County District Attorney Stephanie Salavantis confirmed her office had agreed to look into reports of possible missing funds.

The U.S. attorney is charging Barrett, 48, with one count of embezzlement of funds of a labor organization. The charge has a maximum penalty of five years in prison followed by three years probation and a $250,000 fine, though any sentence is likely to be much lower for a first-time offender.

The plea agreement does not specify what the U.S. attorney might recommend if the agreement is accepted by a judge, but notes the office will recommend a reduction in the sentencing guidelines for the admission of guilt. A judge does not have to accept the attorney recommendation, or even accept the plea agreement.

Pennsylvania State Education Association Northeast Region Spokesman Paul Shemansky said the union had no comment other than to note Barrett is no longer a union member or a teacher and her defense was handled by her own attorney, Christopher Powell, not by the union.

Shemansky also said the PSEA does “offer training on managing money” and that there are “checks and balances” to try to prevent such embezzlement.

Barrett’s written statement filed with the court is a series of acknowledgements that she understands the legal consequences of the plea agreement.

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