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SPSP-Initiated Investigation

Last updated: January 7, 2015
This page will be updated to include more information as it becomes available.
Letter from January 7, 2015
Letter from July 2, 2014
Letter from October 22, 2013
Letter from December 10, 2012
Letter from October 10, 2012


Letter to SPSP Members

Last June, SPSP was able to close the book on an ongoing investigation regarding the actions of a former staff member in the Ithaca Office of SPSP housed at Cornell University. Christie (Marvin) Talbot plead guilty, was sentenced to 90 days incarceration, and is now paying restitution to SPSP.
Over the summer, SPSP filed a civil suit against Kristin Tolchin, another former employee who was believed to be in possession of some of the funds taken from SPSP. Tolchin has denied involvement, but as a recipient of some of the funds, has settled with SPSP and agreed to pay our organization $100,000.
While both cases were investigated, SPSP implemented procedures to strengthen internal controls and ensure that our programs are protected in the future. With this final settlement, we are able to finally put this matter behind us and return to advancing the society’s missions. We appreciate the support of our members during this challenging time. 
If you have any questions regarding this case, feel free to contact SPSP Executive Director Chad Rummel (202) 524-6541, or any officer below.
Yours sincerely,
Mark Leary, 2015 SPSP President
James W. Pennebaker, 2014 SPSP President
Mark Leary, 2015 SPSP President
Patricia Devine, 2012 President
Todd Heatherton, 2011 President
John Dovidio, Executive Officer
Chad Rummel, Executive Director


Letter from SPSP President to Members 
July 2, 2014
Dear Members, 
It has been almost two years since the Society first discovered that a staff member in the Ithaca office of SPSP housed at Cornell University had made inappropriate withdrawals from the organization’s accounts. These withdrawals were discovered as the SPSP leadership was implementing internal controls and reviewing financial practices in 2012. Throughout the last two years, the leadership of the Society worked with investigators, attorneys, and the court system to ensure the issue has been handled appropriately, while concurrently strengthening the internal controls of our growing organization. 
On April 23, 2014, Christie (Marvin) Talbot entered a guilty plea to Grand Larceny in the 2nd Degree (a Class C Felony in New York) for her involvement in taking $365,124.85 in funds from SPSP while working in the Ithaca office of SPSP at Cornell University. In doing so, Talbot accepted responsibility for her actions. On June 27, 2014, Talbot was sentenced to 90 days incarceration, 400 hours of community service, 5 years of probation and restitution. While we are doubtful that SPSP will receive full restitution in such a large amount, we will continue to work with officials to ensure we receive what is available. 
After many hours of working with law enforcement officials in Ithaca and our attorney, we concluded that Christie Talbot was not the only former SPSP employee involved. Along with our attorney, we reviewed personal financial records from Talbot, which indicated that another former SPSP employee, Kristin Tolchin, who also worked in the Cornell University SPSP office, was the recipient of nearly half of the funds that were taken from SPSP. Talbot has cooperated in providing information regarding this second employee's involvement.
Following Talbot’s confession, SPSP filed a civil suit against Kristin Tolchin. As was true with the case pursued against Christie Marvin, we will push for justice and the return of any funds that we may be able to secure for SPSP.  We will continue to keep you updated with this new case as more information becomes available.
We appreciate your patience and support as we continue to handle this issue. At the same time, rest assured that we are simultaneously strengthening internal controls and policies to ensure SPSP and its programs are protected in the future. 
Finally, a number of people have worked long hours in trying to resolve this issue over the last two years: Todd Heatherton, Trish Devine, Jack Dovidio, Linda Dovidio, Susie Schroeder, and David Funder. All deserve special thanks.  If you have any other questions, feel free to contact SPSP Executive Director Chad Rummel (202) 524-6541, or me.
Yours sincerely,
James W. Pennebaker,


Letter from SPSP Past-President to Members
October 22, 2013
Dear SPSP Members,
In October of 2012, I wrote to you with news that it had appeared that an administrative staff member in the Ithaca office of SPSP had made substantial inappropriate withdrawals from the organization's accounts. Fortunately, because of number of new actions by the Society to expand the responsibilities of the Executive Office, new administrative procedures and safeguards, and additional personnel in the office, the Society discovered the irregular activities, well documented them, and reported them promptly to the Ithaca Police Department, which has jurisdiction over this matter. During the past year, the Ithaca Police thoroughly investigated the circumstances surrounding the withdrawals and reported their findings to the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office.
At this point, I can report that Christine (Marvin) Talbot, who worked for SPSP in Ithaca for many years, has been charged with grand larceny in the second degree and arraigned in Ithaca City Court on Friday, October 18, 2013. Her employment was terminated with SPSP upon discovery of the irregular activities last year, in October 2012
The investigation by the police and review of the evidence by the DA was very thorough, and it took much longer than we expected. While the case was under investigation, we were advised not to discuss it with our membership. We appreciate your understanding and patience. We will continue to update you on this issue as the legal process takes its course.
Please direct any inquiries on this matter to Lisa M.P. Munoz, SPSP Public Information Officer, (703-951-3195), or Patricia G. Devine, SPSP Past President, (608-262-1040).
Yours sincerely,
Patricia G. Devine (for the SPSP Executive Committee)
Past President


Letter from SPSP President to Members 
December 10, 2012
Dear Society Members:
It’s been awhile since I first reported that the Society discovered irregularities in our financial records and that a staff member had made substantial inappropriate withdrawals from SPSP accounts. At that time, I promised that we would update you on progress as the investigation unfolds.
Although the wheels of justice turn slowly, I want to assure you that progress is being made in the investigation. We have recently been briefed on the status of the investigation and, because a formal investigation is in progress, we still cannot offer specific details at this point. Nevertheless, we want to convey to our members we are highly impressed with the both the thoroughness and carefulness of the detectives’ work on the case. Our interests are being well protected as legal professionals pursue their investigation. We are hopeful that we will be able to disclose more details before the end of the year. We can, of course, only provide such information at a point at which it will not jeopardize the unfolding investigation.
As before, inquiries on this matter should be directed to Lisa M.P. Munoz, SPSP Public Information Officer,, 703-951-3195, or Patricia G. Devine, SPSP President,, (608-262-1040).
Yours sincerely,
Patricia G. Devine


Letter from SPSP President to Members
October 10, 2012
Dear SPSP Members:
SPSP has changed in the years since we started our annual conference in 2000.  During that time, our membership has grown substantially, and we currently have approximately 7,000 members.  As a result of the Society’s growth and success, it has become a considerably more complex organization.  When we were a small organization, we relied mostly on volunteers to manage the Society’s business.  In recognition of the increasing complexity of the Society and our activities, in January of 2012, the Executive Committee voted to hire a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to work with the Society to systematize our policies and procedures.  We hired an excellent Certified Public Accountant to serve in the CFO role, and she has been working with the Society’s Executive Office staff and the Executive Committee since April of 2012. 
In the course of the CFO’s work, she discovered some significant irregularities in financial records for the period between 2007 and 2010.  Through a thorough forensic accounting investigation, it appears that an administrative staff member of the organization made substantial inappropriate withdrawals from SPSP accounts.  We immediately reported our concerns to the Ithaca Police Department and provided them with the full set of evidence we uncovered.  The case is being investigated by the Tompkins County, New York, District Attorney’s Office.  The staff member's employment was immediately terminated by the Society. 
The case is now working its way through the criminal justice system and at the present time, we are not at liberty to offer any additional information.  I want to assure you, however, that we will provide a full disclosure at the appropriate time.  Our timetable for disclosing further details of the case is, as you might understand, dictated by the unfolding legal process.   We have established a page on the SPSP website on which we will post updates about the case as they become available:  You will find a link to the page on the SPSP homepage once it goes live.  At this point in time, the page has only this letter to the membership. We will update it as soon as we have new information.
We realize that our members will likely have many questions regarding this matter.  We ask for your patience and understanding as the legal process unfolds and as we make transitions to accommodate changes in our staff.  We will do everything possible to minimize any disruptions in our services.
Any inquiries on this matter should be directed to Lisa M.P. Munoz, SPSP Public Information Officer,, 703-951-3195, or Patricia G. Devine, SPSP President,, 608-262-1040.
Yours sincerely, 
Patricia G. Devine (for the SPSP Executive Committee)
President, SPSP