A New Orleans woman who worked as an instructor for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs admitted in federal court Wednesday that she demanded that the LSU School of Nursing award her a doctorate degree before she would assist the school with a highly competitive grant proposal.
Pamela Parker, 55, pleaded guilty to one count of “demanding a gratuity,” a charge that carries up to two years behind bars and a fine of up to $250,000.
She remains free on a recognizance bond and is scheduled to be sentenced May 4 by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman.
According to court records, Parker had sought unsuccessfully to obtain a doctorate from the LSU School of Nursing, submitting a dissertation in 2006 that was twice rejected by a review panel, which directed Parker to collect more data.
Parker, who had received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from LSU in nursing, worked as a clinical instructor for Veterans Affairs and had been assigned by her supervisor to explore partnering with the VA in its pursuit of a federal grant designed to transition veterans into nursing careers.
According to prosecutors, Parker met with a representative of the school in October 2014 and produced a “handwritten list of things of value,” including a doctor of nursing science degree, that she had scrawled before the meeting. “Ms. Parker conditioned her assistance with the grant proposal on receipt of the items on her list of demands,” according to a factual basis filed in U.S. District Court.
Prosecutors said Parker had follow-up meetings with the school’s dean to discuss the grant and her demands.
“Ms. Parker was not authorized by the VA to request the items on her list,” prosecutors said in court filings, “and the items on Ms. Parker’s list were of personal value to her.”
Parker’s defense attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite said in a statement that Parker’s conviction represented “the most recent, but not the last, example of our commitment to fighting public corruption.”
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.