Saturday, August 1, 2015

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Judge orders bond increase in guardianship


By MARCIA DAVIS Managing editor

A recent development in the guardianship of Ann Walton James presented in court documents filed last week.

Statutory Probate Judge Kathleen S. Stone signed an order on Tuesday, July 21, that was filed Friday, July 24 in Titus County.

The order calls for a change in the attorney ad litem and an increase in the bond of the guardian.

The order states that the order appointing Lance Hinson as attorney ad litem should be vacated and that Lori Chism should be appointed to serve as the attorney ad litem to represent Ann Walton James in this cause.

“The Court also finds,” the order reads, “that the current bond of the guardian is insufficient and should be increased to $115,000.”

The court order calls for the current serving guardian of Anna Walton James, which is stated in the order as James Taylor, to increase his bond to the sum of $115,000 within 20 days of the order and file the bond for approval by Stone, the judge presiding over the case.

On June 25 a motion to remove guardian was filed in Titus County by Barbara Ann Reynolds, presenting herself in the order as the ward’s great-niece, to remove James as guardian; and Reynolds has also filed an application to be appointed guardian.

Family and Court Services, Inc. operated by James Taylor was appointed as the guardian of the person and estate of Ann Walton James in December of 2013, according to court documents.
Reynolds’ motion states that in the order appointing Taylor as guardian, the court required that Taylor post a bond in the sum of $5,000 and that he retain the remaining assets in safekeeping.

“Taylor later filed an Inventory with the Court showing personal property assets in excess of $300,000, but he never increased his bond,” Reynolds’ motion states. 

The court records do not indicate the existence of any safekeeping agreement executed with the guardian, according to the June motion Reynolds’ filed.

Reynolds’ motion made a number of accusations against Taylor including him not giving the wards’ family notice as to his filing for guardianship appointment, never executing through the courts a safekeeping agreement on the estate, not filing annual accounts and required reports, attempting to alienate the ward from her family; and acts that “support a belief that the guardian has misapplied, embezzled or removed from the (estate), or is about to misapply, embezzle or remove from the (estate), all or part of the property entrusted to the guardian’s care.”

On July 20, a motion was filed by Taylor to set aside the order appointing permanent guardianship to Reynolds.

Both that order and another order he filed, also on July 20, to answer Reynolds’ order to be appointed as successor guardian called for Reynolds to prove her claims. Taylor’s July 20 order detailed the process he said he followed to seek out the ward’s son before asking for guardian appointment.

On July 10, Taylor filed a general denial of the allegations set out in Reynold’s motion to remove him as guardian. That motion called for Reynolds to prove her claims, charges and allegations.

Taylor’s motion set out the specific denial the guardian’s bond was insufficient, attesting that he had brought the value of the ward’s assets to the court’s attention in his inventory that was filed, and that the amount of the bond was set at the discretion of the court.

His answer also denies that a safekeeping agreement was required.

Taylor’s motion denies he restricted family members from visiting her and details that in early June of this year, he (as guardian) had learned that unknown persons had entered the ward’s room at the nursing home in late May and video recorded the ward, then posted the video on Facebook, without his (as guardian) permission.

Taylor also denied the charge that he had not filed an annual account or an annual report of the person, or had failed to properly account; the mismanagement of the estate and the implications that he “has misapplied, embezzled or misused assets belonging to the Ward.”

Additionally, Taylor’s filed answer states that Reynolds is not entitled to be appointed guardian of the ward, because she is related by marriage and not a blood relative.

Full Article & Source: 
Judge orders bond increase in guardianship

5 signs your parents are the victims of a financial scam


financial_scams_0.jpg
by Cameron Huddleston

Although no one is immune to financial scams, older adults tend to be more susceptible. Nearly 30 percent of fraud complaints filed with law enforcement in 2014 were lodged by adults ages 60 and older, according to the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book. And Americans 65 and older who were targets of fraudsters were 34 percent more likely to have lost money than those in their 40s, according to a report by Applied Research & Consulting LLC.

Unfortunately, these statistics don't reflect the true scope of the problem. According to the FBI, fraud and financial scams often go unreported by older Americans because they don't know whom to report them to, are ashamed at having been scammed or don't even realize they've been scammed.

That's why it's so important to protect your parents from becoming financial scam victims. Here are five signs you need to watch for.

1. They offer personal information over the phone.
When your parents get phone calls, listen for signs that they're giving out personal information — such as a credit card or bank account number — or making a pledge to donate money, said Ginny Polio, owner of YES Your Executive Secretary, which provides bookkeeping services and financial management for older adults in Massachusetts.

Polio had a client who gave her bank account number over the phone to a scammer who had promised to provide credit card theft protection for a fee — even though she didn't have a credit card — and to another thief who offered identity theft protection for $350 a month.

Telemarketing scams are common ploys used to target older adults, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). Once seniors give out financial information to one scammer, their names and contact information might be shared with other scammers.

To help your parents avoid these scams, you can register their number on the National Do Not Call Registry website, which will help stop scammers from calling them. Then, Polio said, you can tell your parents to hang up on anyone else who calls who isn't a friend or family member.

2. They say they've won prizes or sweepstakes.
If your parents say they've won money or a prize, or you see lots of mailings at their home about sweepstakes, it's a red flag.

Ask your parents whether they had to pay anything to claim their winnings. Typically, scammers tell victims that they have to make some sort of payment to get their prize. The thieves collect their money but don't deliver the promised prizes. According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement arm of the postal service, 60 percent of people 60 and older are victims of this sort of fraud.

Let your parents know that legitimate sweepstakes can't require anyone to pay a fee as a condition of playing. You can report scammers and suspicious offers your parents receive in the mail with the Postal Inspection Service's online complaint form. If they've been targeted by scammers, report it to the FTC, their state attorney general and state consumer protection office.

3. They get unnecessary medical tests or have unnecessary medical equipment.
If you notice that your parents are having a lot of medical tests and appointments or have medical equipment in their homes even though they are relatively healthy, it's worth exploring.

Health care fraud is a big area of financial exploitation, said Ramsey Alwin, NCOA's vice president of economic security. Scammers might provide bogus services at makeshift mobile clinics or offer free medical products in exchange for seniors' Medicare numbers.

Check your parents' Medicare statements for claims for services they didn't receive or equipment they didn't order, and report them to Medicare, Alwin said. You also can report fraud through your state's Senior Medicare Patrol website.

4. They talk about getting a reverse mortgage.
A reverse mortgage is a legitimate way for older adults to tap into the equity in their homes for spending money. So if your parents express interest in one, it doesn't mean they're necessarily being conned. Scammers, however, are taking advantage of the popularity of reverse mortgages to steal the equity from the property of unsuspecting seniors, the FBI reports.

Reverse mortgage scams usually involve the offer of a free home or money to seniors in exchange for the title to their property. To help your parents avoid becoming victims, tell them to toss any unsolicited offers they get in the mail and give them the NCOA's free guide for homeowners considering a reverse mortgage. If they already are victims, file a complaint with their local FBI office and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

5. They go to "free meal" financial seminars.
Be especially wary if your parents express interest in or actually attend financial or investing seminars that offer a free lunch. There is no such thing as a free lunch, according to the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).

Scammers advertise seminars for seniors in newspapers and through mailings, offering gourmet meals, expert advice and risk-free investment opportunities with guaranteed returns. The food and tips might be free, but seniors who attend these events often end up paying a big price.

According to the NASAA, the goal of these seminars is to get seniors to open accounts with the sponsoring firm and buy investment products, which are risky or unsuitable for them. And the people selling these products aren't always licensed to do so. If your parents are the target of one of these scam artists and are being pressured by this sales tactic, report the person to your state securities regulator. If they are a victim of investment fraud, you can initiate a dispute through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

To help lower the risk of your parents becoming fraud victims, Alwin recommends that you talk frankly with your parents about common scam scenarios. Tell them that the sooner they report a scam, the sooner law enforcement can stop the scammer and prevent him from targeting others, she said.

Full Article & Source:
5 signs your parents are the victims of a financial scam

MADDEN-VITALE INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO HELP PREVENT THE ABUSE OF ELDERLY AND DISABLED


TRENTON – In an effort to reduce incidents of abuse among vulnerable residents, Senator Fred H. Madden Jr. and Senator Joseph F. Vitale recently introduced legislation that would establish a task force aimed at protecting senior citizens and individuals with disabilities.

“Elderly residents and people with disabilities must be protected from those who may take advantage of them or their situation,” said Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Abuse can come in many forms – whether it be physically, mentally or financially.”

“These residents deserve the proper environment and care necessary to lead healthy lives. Preventing future incidents of abuse will help to ensure that they continue to do so ,” said Madden.

The bill, S-3128, would create the New Jersey Task Force on Abuse Against the Elderly and Disabled.

According to the legislation, the task force would evaluate current policies designed to protect older adults and individuals with disabilities.

It would also identify existing circumstances of abuse, and develop recommendations for legislation, policies, and strategies that would help to protect senior citizens and disabled individuals from abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.

“For many individuals who cannot fend for themselves, abuse can take a toll on their physical and mental health,” said Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This is why it is crucial that we create a measure that will address this issue.”

“By establishing a task force that will help to examine policies and solutions to protect our most vulnerable residents, we will reduce the likelihood of abuse and neglect in our communities ,” said Vitale.

The task force would further consist of 11 members representing the elderly and disabled community including agency officials, advocacy groups, and public members of the Legislature.

Three of the public members would be appointed by the Governor while the Senate President and the Speaker of the Assembly would each appoint one public member.

After 12 months, the task force would be required to submit a report of its findings with recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.”

Similarly, abuse of the disabled also occurs commonly by caretakers, family members and other service providers.

In addition, financial exploitation of the elderly often includes consumer fraud such as prize scams and donations, according to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also reported that it is estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of authorities.

Currently, there are 40.3 million elderly residents in the United States over the age of 65 and approximately 14 million adults aged 65 and over and 19 million adults aged 18 to 64 who have a disability.

According to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, senior citizens age 65 and older made up about 13.5 percent of New Jersey’s total population.

Full Article & Source:
MADDEN-VITALE INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO HELP PREVENT THE ABUSE OF ELDERLY AND DISABLED

Friday, July 31, 2015

Conservatorship Conundrum: You Can Be Reduced to the Status of an Infant With as Few Rights as a Felon


by  Martha T.S. Laham 

In the first blog post of the "Conservatorship Conundrum" series, we learned about a conservatorship, also called a guardianship. Next, let's look at "who" does "what" in a conservatorship and how a conservatorship is formed.

What Is a Conservator?
 
Two types of probate conservators can be appointed. A conservator of the person is responsible for handling the conservatee's health care and other basic needs, while a conservator of the estate is responsible for handling the conservatee's financial matters.

The needs of the conservatee will determine if both a conservator of the person and a conservator of the estate are needed.

Who Can Be a Conservator?

If the proposed conservatee isn't able to nominate a person, the court will follow a list of preferences established by law (in order of preference from first to last): a spouse or domestic partner, an adult child, a parent, a sibling, a public guardian, or others the law approves.

If none of them wishes to be the conservator, a professional conservator who charges fees for services can be hired.

If no one files a petition, the public guardian will typically act as conservator and be legally responsible for making all decisions for the incapacitated person.

"Around 95 percent of conservators play dual roles of conservator of the person and conservator of the estate, while about 5 percent are different people or private or professional conservators," says Kirk McIntosh, a Costa Mesa, California-based probate and estate planning attorney.

Is Special Training Required to Become a Conservator?

You'd think a conservator would need special qualifications or specialized knowledge in accounting, law, or social work to become a probate conservator. Not true--pretty much anybody may qualify to become a conservator. In most states, the one prerequisite is that you're mentally competent.

What Are the Steps Involved in the Conservatorship Court Process?

Whenever you see court and process in the same sentence, you know you've gotten yourself into a situation that could be lengthy, costly, and possibly ugly. Let's run through a typical case in the California courts.

1. The Situation.
Say a relative feels that you're unable to care for yourself and fears for your personal health and welfare. Here, your relative will play the role of the proposed conservator, and you will be the proposed conservatee.

If your relative wishes to be conservator over your person, he or she must prove to the court that you're unable to properly provide for your basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter.

If your relative wishes to be conservator over your estate, he or she must prove that you're "substantially" unable to manage your financial affairs or "resist fraud or undue influence" by providing "clear and convincing evidence" (the "legal burden" or a "burden of persuasion"), such as unpaid bills or self-neglect, as proof to the court that you're unable to manage your affairs.

2. The Petition.
As the petitioner, your relative will file the case in court by completing the Petition of Conservatorship, the proposal to the court to appoint him or her as your conservator.

McIntosh explains, "Proof of need for a conservatorship requires a capacity declaration from a treating doctor." So the proposed conservator must show that a conservatorship is needed because the proposed conservatee is incompetent, which is known as the burden of proof.

Also, the burden of proof that must be met is that the conservatorship is "the least restrictive alternative or the least intrusive option."

3. The Notice.
Your relative (the petitioner) must have you served with the citation and a copy of the petition at least 15 days prior to the hearing. This "notice" must include the basis for the petition, the type of conservatorship being sought, and the ramifications of the conservatorship on your life--in effect, what rights will be denied either partially or wholly to you.

A written notice of hearing on the conservatorship matter must be mailed to your spouse or domestic partner and "second-degree" relatives, such as siblings and other immediate family members.

4. The Interview.
After the petition is filed, a court investigator will be assigned to the case, and court investigator fees will be paid.

The court investigator acts as the judge's eyes and ears by furnishing "neutral information" about the case. He or she will assess your situation, interview you and your family members, explain your rights, inform you of the petition, and review the allegations contained in it, among other things.

The court investigator will file a confidential report for the court, send copies of it to all parties, and make final recommendations to the judge.

5. The Hearing.
At the hearing, the judge will determine if all parties have been notified, whether the conservatorship is warranted, and what types of "special powers" may be granted to your relative if the judge approves the conservatorship.

If you oppose the conservatorship, you can explain why at the hearing. You can also request a jury trial. If the court grants these requests, then nothing else will happen at that time. If not, the judge will either grant or deny the conservatorship.

6. The Appointment.
If the judge grants the petition, an order appointing your relative as your conservator for the conservatorship of your person and/or estate will be filed, and Letters of Conservatorship will be issued to him or her. The Letters will prove that your relative has been appointed as your conservator, show that he or she has the authority to act as your conservator, and spell out the permitted actions your relative is authorized to take that affect your life.

If you have an estate, a surety bond must be filed unless the court has frozen your assets.

Frighteningly, your life may no longer be your own to determine or manage, although that all depends on the rights and powers the judge will allow you to retain.

At the end of the day a conservatorship can reduce you to the status of an infant with as few rights as a felon.

In the next blog post in the series, we'll enter the dark underbelly of the guardianship industry.   (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Conservatorship Conundrum: You Can Be Reduced to the Status of an Infant With as Few Rights as a Felon

Minn. Database Indicates Senior Citizen Abuse Cases Have Increased


By: Eric Chaloux 
 
More and more Minnesotans over the age of 65 are becoming the victims of financial or physical senior citizen abuse according to a state database.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS combed through data from the Minnesota Department of Human Services website that showed, in the last two years, reports of allegations of financial exploitation and caregiver neglect increased over the previous year involving residents over the age of 65.

"Sometimes the penalties for stealing under this are much less than going in and robbing a local gas station," Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo said. "It's frustrating."

Most of the senior citizen abuse cases that come across the desk of prosecutors in Anoka County involve a relationship between the suspect and the victim.

"You have the reluctance of the victim sometimes, to want to prosecute they just want it to stop but they don't want their loved to go to jail,” Palumbo said.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that research indicates that people with dementia are at greater risk of senior citizen abuse than those without. Close to half of all people over 85, the fastest growing segment of our population, have Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia.

Anoka County obtained a federal grant that is used in part to train first responders to look for the signs of senior citizen abuse when they arrive at a scene.

Palumbo often speaks to groups about senior citizen abuse in the community in which he says there are three questions you should ask a person you suspect is being abused: Is someone hurting you?
Are you afraid of someone? Is someone taking your money without your permission?

State data showed in 2013, 19,371 reports of allegations of caregiver neglect and financial exploitation took place in Minnesota. In 2014, 20,087 incidents were reported to the state involving residents over the age of 65.

On July 1, Minnesota launched a new Adult Abuse Reporting Center that is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for mandated reporters to alert the state to abuse allegations.

Full Article & Source:
Minn. Database Indicates Senior Citizen Abuse Cases Have Increased

New Guardianship Law Taking Effect to Protect Elderly



A new guardianship law is taking effect Tuesday, July 1st, to help protect the elderly.

The new legislation is put in place to help protect your elderly family members from fraud, exploitation, and unnecessary guardianship through naming a power of attorney and a healthcare surrogate and alternate.

For preventive measures, its always a good idea to have a living will and discuss all plans and wishes with a trusting family member.

For more information visit the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys website.

Full Article & Source:
New Guardianship Law Taking Effect to Protect Elderly

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Outrageous Human Services Case in Jefferson County Colorado

Disability advocates are infuriated about a case involving a nonverbal woman with disabilities who they say is being held hostage by Jefferson County.

"It is truly outrageous," said Julie Reiskin, director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. "I call this torture."

County officials have assumed temporary guardianship over 36-year-old Sharisa Kochmeister, a college graduate, and removed her from her home and her father — the only person in Colorado who helps her communicate.

They placed her in a nursing home and forbid her family, friends and even her doctor from visiting her, according to people close to the situation.

"What is she doing in a nursing home in Morrison away from her friends?" asked Marcia Tewell, executive director of the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council. "Her real community is nowhere near her and they are blocking access."

The ordeal began in March when her father was accused of abuse when he was seen in a Denver hospital using his finger to clear his daughter's throat after she had vomited. She kicked him. He pushed her and it was caught on video.

Denver police were alerted, and Jefferson County Human Services was summoned because the family lives in Lakewood.

Denver's district attorney determined there was not enough evidence to charge Sharisa's father. But Jefferson County still took over guardianship, alleging it was a case of Munchausen by proxy syndrome — a form of abuse when a caregiver exaggerates or fakes illnesses or symptoms.

County officials refused to talk about this case, citing privacy and confidentiality laws.

Sharisa has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism and communicates by typing on a computer with one finger. She only types with certain people next to her — her father and her sister, who lives in New York.

She has a dual degree with honors from the University of Denver, became president of the Autism National Committee and joined the executive committee for the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council.

She has written articles and appeared on panels to discuss her disability and how she navigates the world.

Full Article and Source:
Meyer:  An Outrageous Human Services Case in Jefferson County

NY commission hearing set on attorney discipline


ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A new state panel examining how attorneys are disciplined in New York plans to hold its first public hearing next week.

The Commission on Statewide Attorney Discipline is set to meet for two hours on Tuesday at the Court of Appeals in Albany.

Other hearings are scheduled Aug. 4 in Buffalo and Aug. 11 in Manhattan.

Issues before the commission appointed by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman include whether disciplinary charges or findings should be made public earlier as a consumer protection matter.

The panel will also examine whether there should be more uniformity in the approaches by the state's four judicial departments.

Full Article & Source:
NY commission hearing set on attorney discipline

New Assisted Living Regulations Go Into Effect


By Rebecca J. Benson

Effective July 1, 2015, Massachusetts assisted living residences (ALRs) are subject to new regulations of theExecutive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA). The ALR regulations were last revised in 2006. The new regulations are intended to enhance the safety of the residents in the state's 236 facilities. Changes to the regulations address controlled substances, screening and assessment, training, and incident reporting. Among other things, ALRs are now required to develop detailed safety and evacuation plans to protect residents in the event of a disaster.

In an effort to promote residents' right to self-determination, ALRs are now required to document, upon admission, whether residents have advance directives in place for finances and health care. ALRs must also distribute information about a full range of end of life treatment options to residents with serious advancing illness or for whom palliative care would be helpful. These regulations will enhance residents' rights to control their personal finances and health care. They will also ensure that ALR residents have access to a full range of palliative care options.

Several of the new requirements apply specifically to so-called memory care units, known as "Special Care Residences," which serve the most vulnerable ALR residents - those with cognitive impairment. For example, providers must provide structured activities for memory impaired residents, address the residents' physical safety needs and provide a secure outdoor space for their residents.

The proposed regulations included a provision that prohibited ALRs from allowing residents with "Skilled Nursing Care" needs to age in place. During EOEA's public comment period, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, along with other advocates and consumers, unanimously opposed this proposed change. Among other thing, the proposed regulation was unlikely to benefit ALR residents but risked confusing and intimidating residents and their families. To the extent that it infringed on the rights of ALR residents to contract for services and age in place to the same extent as persons living in private homes, the proposed regulation ran afoul of the state's ALR statute and regulations, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act. Fortunately, it was deleted from the final regulations.

Full Article & Source:
New Assisted Living Regulations Go Into Effect

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Families Go to Battle in Probate Court, Only to Leave Without Anything


By Steve Jansen

Cartoon by Fred Harper

In October 2007, Willie Jo Mills of Houston suffered a stroke that paralyzed the right side of her body. A widow with two daughters and a son, the 80-year-old woman was prescribed a variety of pain medications, but doctors couldn’t find the right cocktail.

Six months later, Mills’s son Larry filed an application with the Harris County Probate Court to become his mom’s legal guardian. Mills’s youngest daughter, Sherry Johnston, who wasn’t getting along with Larry, contested her brother’s guardianship request. With the case at a standstill, Judge Christine Riddle Butts, one of the newest of Harris County’s four elected probate judges, selected the third-party guardians David R. Dexel, a Houston-based attorney, and Ginger Lott, a certified guardian in Texas, as Mills’s legal caretakers.

Johnston says that’s when the family’s five-year horror began.

According to documents filed with the Harris County Probate Court, Johnston alleges her mother was miserable and overmedicated and shriveled to 89 pounds while under the care of the court-appointed guardians. “She looked like a concentration camp victim,” says Johnston, who adds that she was barred from visiting her mother at Silverado Kingwood Memory Care Community after she complained about the lack of attention paid to her mom.

Following her complaint to the court, Johnston was allowed to visit with her mother. In the next six months, she put 30 pounds on her mother, but Willie Jo eventually moved to hospice and died on September 27, 2014, at the age of 86. Johnston thinks the pitiful treatment by the third-party guardians is part of the reason her mother stopped talking the last four months of her life.

“[Probate Court] isn’t about protection or appointing someone to act in the best interest of a person. It’s about ownership of a human being and all their assets. It’s starting to look like they’re running a business rather than taking care of elderly people,” says Debby Valdez, president of the San Antonio-based Guardianship Reform Advocates for the Disabled and Elderly.

By law, a person in the clutches of a guardianship loses his basic rights such as the ability to drive, spend money, marry, choose a place to live and make medical decisions for himself. Instead, the bill of rights is transferred to the appointed guardian.

A professional caretaker through a county guardianship program, or a certified — or even uncertified — guardian such as a private lawyer can carry out a court-appointed guardianship, which dissolves a previous power of attorney that a relative may have obtained. (The Texas Judicial Branch Certification Commission requires the completion of a four-hour course to become a certified guardian. Until recently, it had been only three hours.)

Before he became the legal guardian for his mother, Olga, Gregory DeFrancesco, a retired Houston Police Department sergeant, had been fighting a grueling guardianship battle in Harris County probate court.

In July 2012, Judge Loyd Wright of Harris County Probate Court No. 1 appointed Dexel to take care of the now 88-year-old woman’s affairs. The court became involved because Gregory and his sister Donna couldn’t agree on specifics regarding their mother’s care (or anything else, for that matter).

According to a complaint filed by Donna with the State Bar of Texas’s Chief Disciplinary Council, after Dexel sold Olga’s house, he hawked her belongings in a poorly run sale. Sentimental possessions, like their grandmother’s rocking chair and a piece of jewelry that contained their father’s ashes, were sold before Gregory and Donna had a chance to run over and rescue the items.

The barely legible, hand-scrawled itemized receipt looks as if a six-year-old kid had run the sale. Purchased items include “crystol plate” for $7, “3 oval” for $5 and “sieve,” “foil,” “napkin hold” and “SS gravy body” for $1 apiece. One of the few items that didn’t sell was an X-ray of Olga’s shoulder, which Gregory found with a $3 price sticker slapped on it, according to Donna’s complaint with the State Bar of Texas.

When Gregory confronted Dexel, who didn’t respond to a Houston Press interview request, about the X-ray that also listed Olga’s date of birth and Social Security number, “He told me that they tried to sell it so that parents could teach their children how to play doctor.”

A month after Gregory usurped Dexel as his mother’s guardian, Donna’s State Bar of Texas complaint alleges that Dexel withdrew $16,340.18 from Olga’s Wells Fargo account (because he was still listed as a co-signer) and made out a cashier’s check payable to himself, according to a bank statement and check image examined by the Press. The withdrawal took Olga’s account down to a big fat $0.

“The whole system is rigged. It’s one big scam,” Gregory says about Harris County probate court, which critics allege is a corrupt, freewheeling operation that allows judges’ favorite appointees, who are also close friends and campaign donors, to bleed the estates of the helpless and vulnerable. Naysayers of court-appointed guardians believe that attorneys prey on family drama to charge astronomical fees and that judges aren’t doing enough to stop them.

Even though probate law is a complicated field that requires specialized attorneys, only 20 of the judges in Texas’s 254 counties have legal-studies degrees and professional law experience, according to Judge Mike Wood, who’s in charge of Harris County Probate Court No. 2. “The rest are farmers, car dealers and insurance salesmen, so probate law is written to be run by non-lawyers,” says Wood. Travis County Probate Court Judge Guy Herman, one of Texas’s presiding state statutory probate judges, adds, “Non-lawyer judges sometimes don’t seem to know or understand their duties and obligations” because of a lack of resources in rural areas.

Unlike probate courts out in the sticks, Harris County’s four probate judges and Herman think that statutory probate courts in Texas’s resource-rich metropolitan areas — which include Bexar, Collin, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Galveston, Harris, Hidalgo, Tarrant and Travis counties — are well-oiled machines. Herman, who has been a point person for probate legislation since 1985, says Texas’s revamping of probate statutes in 1993 brought kudos from other states.

“The system is geared to help people,” says Wright. “Sometimes things aren’t fixable when there’s dysfunction and family animosity.”

Herman couldn’t agree more. “The driver of the expense is a family feud and the children who are arguing about who should be the guardian. There’s not a single judge that likes these fights. It’s wasting the family’s money,” says Herman, who adds, “I don’t think judges are sitting around trying to be corrupt.”

However, state lawmakers thought something was awry during the 2015 Texas legislative session because Governor Greg Abbott signed yet another try at legislation designed to help families in guardianship proceedings.

“We need some sort of oversight of these court appointees, because right now, I don’t know of any,” says state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Democrat from Laredo who sponsored or co-sponsored several guardianship bills.

Harris County’s four probate judges and Travis County’s Herman aren’t thrilled with many of the new laws, which force more accountability on the judges and go into effect September 1.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht says there’s one bulletproof way to avoid potential probate court messes. During a hearing for the eventually inked House Bill 39, which will provide families with less-restrictive alternatives to guardianships, Zaffirini asked Hecht for probate court and guardianship avoidance techniques.

His response: Get along with your family members.

Good luck with that.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Families Go to Battle in Probate Court, Only to Leave Without Anything

Florida clerks’ budget reductions could affect guardianship oversight


                                                                        Photo via Flickr

Like pretty much every hotel conference, the most interesting part of the Florida State Guardianship Association conference Friday was probably the mixed drinks at the pool bar. Still, we found some interesting tidbits at a presentation by four Florida county court clerks.

For those who don’t know, a guardian is a decision-maker, either a family member or a professional, appointed by the court who can make personal and/or financial choices for a minor or adult with mental or physical disabilities (also known as a ward). The Miami New Times reported last year that although the state's guardianship program was initiated to help the elderly and people who are incapacitated, the system actually leaves these people open to exploitation.

“Few of the roughly 50,000 Floridians inside the state's guardianship system ever escape,” New Times says. “And for some, losing their rights is just the beginning. In cases of abuse, they are isolated from families, overmedicated and physically neglected while guardians bleed their accounts.”

County clerk offices around the state are in charge of auditing a ward’s financial records, which are filed by guardians. During the audit, clerk employees check for irregular financial activity, which could indicate abuse.

Statewide, clerks’ offices are facing a five percent reduction in their overall budgets, creating a $22.4 million shortfall this year with a greater shortfall predicted next year, said Polk County Clerk of Courts Stacy Butterfield. The clerks office generated less revenue from court fees and fines than expected, and had to slash their budgets because state lawmakers would not give them additional aid.

Many offices have already experienced layoffs, furloughs and a reduction in office hours.

"Next year, we're potentially looking at a 7 to 8 percent reduction," Butterfield told the crowd Friday. “If we don’t have relief from the Legislature, we will experience very drastic cuts."

It was only last year that legislators passed a bill allowing county clerks to aggressively audit guardianship cases, but the mandate was ineffective because the state didn't put money into it, New Times reports.

Despite bills introduced by the Florida Legislature to reform the guardianship program, it looks like clerks will have even less money to go around, there's little chance clerks will be able to devote resources to the cases.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Florida clerks’ budget reductions could affect guardianship oversight

Police raid unlicensed assisted living facility in St. Pete


Detectives from the St. Petersburg Police have raided a home operating as an unlicensed assisted living facility.

The home is located at 2895 38 Ave. North.

According to detectives, they began investigating the operation after credit cards and identities of residents were used to make fraudulent transactions.

The Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration and Department of Health are assisting police with the investigation.

According to I-Team Reporter Adam Walser, six patients were living in the facility.  


According to a police statement,  the investigation began in early June when the daughter of a woman who had lived at the ALF noticed charges made on her mother's credit card account which were apparently fraudulent.  Her mother had passed away on May 31st.

The owner, Maria Matos Infante, has been arrested and is charged with 10 counts of credit card fraud.

Watch Action News starting at 4 p.m. for the latest.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Police raid unlicensed assisted living facility in St. Pete

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Conservatorship Conundrum: Court Process That Can 'Unperson' You Within Minutes


by 

You may have heard the term "conservatorship" in the context of entertainment news. Older celebrities like the late Mickey Rooney, the star of such film classics as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Black Stallion, and the late Peter Falk, who played the shrewd police lieutenant on Columbo, were placed under conservatorships.

But conservatorships aren't just reserved for older adults. American pop princess Britney Spears and former child star Amanda Bynes were conserved for running amok and posing a danger to themselves.

Let's look behind the headlines and learn what a conservatorship, also referred to as a guardianship, is.

An Age-Old Solution to an Age-Old Situation

The guardianship concept dates back to Roman times. Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.), a Roman philosopher, lawyer, and statesman, codified the guardianship concept into Roman law, with an eye toward managing an incompetent's property.

In England during the early 1300s, guardianships appeared in common law with the passage of De Praerogativa Regis, a statute that allowed kings to take ownership of the property of mentally disturbed individuals. By the early 1600s, an heir's guardian obligations were codified and crossed the Big Pond to the United States.

In the aftermath of the American Revolution, the states employed parens patriae (Latin for "parent of the nation"). The law allowed the state to exercise jurisdiction over persons with disabilities or incapacities by appointing officials, usually guardians, to care for these persons if they were unable to care for themselves.

Protectors of the "Unbefriended" 

So what exactly is a guardianship? According to a report entitled "Public Guardianship After 25 Years: In the Best Interest of Incapacitated People?," a guardianship is described as:
"... a relationship created by state law in which a court gives one person or entity (the guardian) the duty and power to make personal and/or professional decisions for another person (the ward or incapacitated person). [...] Guardianship can 'unperson' individuals and make them 'legally dead.' Guardianship can be a double-edged sword, 'half Santa and half ogre.'"
The long and short of it is, if no family member or friend is willing to step up to serve as legal guardian to a ward or an incapacitated person, or resources aren't available to retain a private guardian (such as a professional fiduciary), then a public official or publicly-funded organization will be appointed as legal guardian, the guardian of last resort.

The State Holds All the Cards

Because of a guardianship's far-reaching power to take over people's lives, you'd probably think that guardianships would be legislated, regulated, and controlled at the federal level. Not so -- adult guardianships are a state-based legal function.

The foundation of the public guardianship system is established by general guardianship code, while legal proceedings can vary by state.

Guardianships by the Numbers

You might be wondering how many people's lives are managed under a guardianship. The answer is that no one knows for sure. By one estimate, about 1.5 million Americans are under a guardianship at any given time, which is probably an underestimate.

One Size Doesn't Fit All Situations

Different types of conservatorships exist. Let's use California as an example. In "The Golden State," conservatorships come in four forms: general conservatorships, limited conservatorships, temporary conservatorships, and Lanterman-Petris-Short conservatorships (LPSs). The first three forms are considered probate conservatorships based on California Probate Code, while the fourth form is designed to care for individuals suffering with serious mental illness and who need special care. Let's look at the first three forms.

General conservatorships are ordinarily used for adults who are unable to take care of themselves or their finances. Here, the judge would choose a person or an organization, the "conservator," to make some or all life decisions for the protected person, the "conservatee." Things like medical and housing decisions would be made by the "conservator of the person." The conservator of the person might also make property decisions, or someone else might be appointed to do that, the "conservator of the estate."

Adults with developmental disabilities who are unable to fully care for themselves or their finances may be placed under a limited conservatorship. These conservatees don't usually need a high level of care or assistance, as compared to conservatees in general conservatorships. They often suffer from long-term developmental disabilities, such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, and other impairments, that started before they turned 18.

When a conservatorship is required urgently, the judge may grant a temporary conservatorship by appointing a temporary conservator of person and/or property for a stated period of time. A temporary conservatorship is a "Band-Aid" over a potentially festering situation and is usually granted if the matter is urgent.

A Double-Edged Sword 

As a legal concept, a conservatorship protects and manages the personal care and/or financial affairs of a vulnerable or dependent adult. In its practical application, however, a conservatorship is the most restrictive alternative and most intrusive option to addressing a situation.

In instances where elders are being abused, neglected, or exploited, a conservatorship can create new problems and even perpetuate the abuse when a court-appointed protector seizes "supreme control" over a conserved elder.

The cold hard fact is that a conservatorship can strip a person of his or her basic freedoms--sometimes in just a matter of minutes.

It Could Happen to You

The scary thing is any of us could become a ward of the state. Growing old and forgetful, getting ill, becoming unable to take care of ourselves or our affairs, getting into a crippling accident, or depending on others for our care could happen to any of us. Losing capacity doesn't distinguish between the genius or the average, the rich or the poor, or the healthy or the unhealthy.

In the next blog post in this series, we'll learn "who" does "what" in a conservatorship and describe how a conservatorship is formed.



Full Article & Source:
Conservatorship Conundrum: Court Process That Can 'Unperson' You Within Minutes

EDITORIAL: Clark County adult guardianship program must better protect wards


If there were any doubts that the Clark County adult guardianship system needs a major overhaul, they were cast aside last week in the first meeting of a 26-member panel commissioned by the Nevada Supreme Court.

As reported by the Review-Journal'€™s Colton Lochhead, the panel is aiming to fix what three of the state'€™s top justices view as a troubled process that has seen some guardians drain hundreds of thousands of dollars from the accounts of elderly and mentally incompetent Nevadans. Yet during the meeting, Jared Shafer, who worked for more than 20 years as the Clark County public administrator and public guardian before starting his private professional guardianship business in 2003, stated that the system "isn'€™t that bad."

Certainly not for Mr. Shafer, whom Mr. Lochhead wrote about earlier this year in an extensive series on the seriously flawed guardianship system. Mr. Shafer took over as the court-approved guardian for World War II veteran Guadalupe Olvera in 2009. Over the next 3½ years, Mr. Olvera'€™s estate was drained of at least $420,000 -- including $240,000 in legal costs as his daughter, Rebecca Schultz, who lives in Aptos, Calif., fought to gain guardianship.

Mr. Lochhead noted that after Mr. Shafer'€™s assessment, one woman at the public meeting shouted, "€œYou used the money to pay lawyers!"€ Many others who attended the meeting, held in a Regional Justice Center courtroom, stood in front of the panel and explained that their family members who had been made wards of the county had been exploited by their guardians.

Indeed, there have been miserable oversight failures of the system that'€™s supposed to protect the estates of thousands of elderly and mentally incapacitated residents. The District Court operation has allowed people to be stripped of hundreds of thousands of dollars while not enforcing guardian reporting requirements and ignoring wards and their families. There is no accountability in the current system, even though the Clark County Commission had at least some knowledge of how bad things were. After Mr. Lochhead'€™s initial reports in April, county commissioners expressed outrage over abuses carried out by court-appointed guardians. But Commissioner Tom Collins also admitted he knew the system was troubled after personally intervening on behalf of a friend whose grandmother couldn'€™t be freed from a guardianship.

That squares with the difficulties of Ms. Schultz, who felt the only solution was to help her father gather a few belongings and flee the state. That led to accusations of kidnapping from Mr. Shafer (no charges were filed) and a bench warrant from Guardianship Commissioner Jon Norheim for Ms. Schultz's arrest, after she and her father ignored Mr. Norheim's order to return for a court appearance.

With 8,500 adult guardianship cases in Clark County each year, this long-neglected problem requires much more action, and soon. Removing Mr. Norheim from adult guardianship hearings in May was a good first step, and creating the panel —€” chaired by Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice James Hardesty —€” is also laudable. But there must be more oversight, guardians must be more accountable and wards must receive better protection against financial exploitation.

Full Article & Source:
EDITORIAL: Clark County adult guardianship program must better protect wards

Why Bankers, Financial Analysts And Doctors Need To Start Working Together



Forbes Guest post written by  
Jason Karlawish, MD, and Dan G. Blazer, MD, Ph.D.
 
Members, Institute of Medicine Committee on the Public Health Dimensions of Cognitive Aging
By the time the condominium association notified Renee Packel that she and her husband were months late paying their fee, Mr. Packel, who was in charge of the bill paying, had also made several erroneous business transactions. Their money had disappeared. A few months later, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

We expect the financial system will preserve our wealth, and that healthcare will preserve our health and, as they do this, that they have little need to work together. And yet, our aging brains are intimately entwined into the financial system. The failure to integrate the care of our wealth and our health is why cognitive impairment is discovered too late. We need a system that delivers whealthcare.

Of all life’s day-to-day chores, managing finances is among the most cognitively demanding. Declines in financial capacity are among the first signs that an older adult is suffering from cognitive impairment, which means that not only doctors but the banking and financial services industries are also diagnosing it. The more the industry steps up to meet this new role, the more likely aging Americans will preserve their wealth and their health.

Among older adults, especially those 75 and older, diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are common causes of subtle and eventually disabling cognitive changes. A recent Institute of Medicine report found added reason for concern. Many older adults who are free of these diseases experience cognitive aging.

The report — “Cognitive Aging: Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action” — explains that, with aging, some cognitive abilities remain stable or even improve, particularly knowledge and vocabulary. Other abilities, however, decline, and among these, the most concerning is the capacity for fluid intelligence, thinking fast and flexibly, and holding multiple facts at the same time to reach a decision.

These changes help explain why aging Americans are not only more likely than their middle aged counterparts to make financial mistakes or decisions that are less than ideal for their financial well-being, but also to be victims of predators who exploit their vulnerability. The Investor Protection Trust found twenty percent of persons 65 and older self-reported being taken advantage of by activities such as unsuitable investments, inappropriate fees, or blatant fraud. Annual losses from fraud and abuse are estimated to be as high as $2.9 billion each year.

For aging Americans who have capably and independently managed and grown their wealth through most of their adult lives, after retirement, events may conspire to set them up for a crisis. Income becomes fixed. Funds are needed to pay for everyday care, and financial management becomes more complex. Declines in cognition, coupled with predators — whether strangers or family and friends – puts older adults at financial risk. These events coincide when the older adult no longer can reenter the work force or has the time to recover losses. The burden of the loss not only falls on the older adult, but their family and society as well.

Cognitive impairment is not simply a medical problem. It’s a public health problem, and the banking and financial services industries are at its front lines. America must think outside the biomedical box to envision a system that cares for our health and our wealth. (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Why Bankers, Financial Analysts And Doctors Need To Start Working Together

Monday, July 27, 2015

Peter Falk Bill Coming to Utah



(KUTV) A Peter Falk bill is coming to the Utah Legislature.

Actor Peter Falk played Columbo, a rumpled detective, who was smarter than he appeared, and was one of the most popular characters ever on television.

Falk’s daughter Catherine Falk is now touring states asking for legal changes that would allow children to visit their parents in the hospital or a care facility.

“When my father was very sick, my sister and I weren’t given access. We couldn’t see him,” Catherine Falk said. Peter Falk suffered from Alzheimer’s and died in 2011. His second wife kept his children from him in his last illness. “It was his last days, and you just want to spend time with your father,” Catherine Falk said.

She is travelling from state to state asking for a streamlined legal process that would allow children to visit their parents.

“I’ve met with people in Utah who had the same problem,” says Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross. Weiler will sponsor a “Peter Falk” bill in the 2016 Utah legislative session.

Catherine Falk says such bills are already pending in New York, New Jersey and Arizona.

Source: Peter Falk Bill Coming to Utah

See Also: Catherine Falk Organization

Join the Catherine Falk Organization Facebook page!

Protecting aging parents from in-home caregivers



HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - Many in-home caregivers are unlicensed and have little oversight on the job and that can leave aging parents vulnerable.

Tuesday,  Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies arrested Kathy Jean Elliot and charged her with two counts of Exploitation of an Elderly Person and theft.

Elliot worked for Hanson Services as an in-home health care companion for the victims. Elliot removed large amounts of jewelry from the victims' homes and pawned the items.

During the investigation, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office discovered another case of elderly exploitation. Anita Louise Puskas, also an in-home health care companion with Hanson Services. Puskas withdrew large amounts of money from the victim's bank account, deputies said.

"They were likable girls," said Georgana Collins, administrator at Hanson Services "We didn't suspect either one of them. It was rather shocking to all of us."

But Michelangelo Mortellaro, an elder law attorney in Tampa, said exploitation of the elderly from in-home caregivers is all too common.

"You don't really know this person, and that person may indeed take advantage of you." Mortellaro said.

If you have aging parents, Mortellaro said try if possible to have documents drawn up sorting out who has control of bank accounts and financial information before in-home caregivers are hired.

"That also prevents people coming in and attempting to take advantage of you after you have let's say, a memory care issue," Mortellaro said.

Mortellaro also recommends checking up on in-home caregivers. He said make sure food is being prepared and actually eaten by your aging parent. He also said check pill bottles to ensure medications are actually being given out and distributed properly.

He also said check receipts, bills and bank accounts to ensure there's no unusual activity or transfers.

"Keep close tabs using that power of attorney," Mortellaro said.

He also recommends making sure any caregiver hired is licensed, bonded and insured.

Hanson Services management told ABC Action News all of their approximately 40 caregivers are licensed, bonded and insured, and these two employees passed multiple background checks, but unfortunately, it wasn't enough to protect some clients.

"I just want them to know how sorry Hansen Services is that they were victims of someone who worked for us," Collins said. "It's rather sad for us to see this happening."

Hanson Services says they are cooperating with detectives and have reached out to all clients who have had contact with these two caregivers.

Detectives are continuing the investigation and ask that any other victims contact the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200.

Full Article & Source:
Protecting aging parents from in-home caregivers

Abuse victim escapes, Holyoke Personal Care Assistant charged

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) –  A Personal Care Assistant, Jo Ann Engleston, of Holyoke, is facing charges after police say she abused a woman with disabilities who was in her care.

Holyoke Police Lt. Jim Albert told 22News that on Friday, the 66-year-old victim escaped Engleston (who was her live-in personal care assistant) and walked nearly a mile to the Loomis House on Jarvis Avenue. Police say the victim walks with a prosthetic leg and a walker, and that the journey took her more than two hours.

Loomis House staff called police, and took care of the woman until an ambulance could arrive. She was taken to Holyoke Medical Center with bruises all over her face and arms. Albert says the woman reported being abused by Engleston for more than five years, saying that she was sometimes “struck by wet towels.”

Engleston, 51, is charged with assault and battery on an elderly or disabled person, domestic assault and battery on a family or household member, and threat to commit a crime.

Holyoke police and Greater Springfield Senior Services are continuing to look into the case.

Full Article & Source:
Abuse victim escapes, Holyoke Personal Care Assistant charged

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tonight on T.S. Radio: Deirdre Gilbert: What does it take to get you on your feet?



Deirdre Gilbert of the National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association (NMMAA). www.nmmaa.org

This issue is particularly important to those of us fighting the abuse and neglect of our elderly, especially those in nursing homes and hospitals, whose doctors seem unaware or unaffected by the deteriorating state of their patients, often times resulting in death.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.—right behind heart disease and cancer.

In 2012, over $3 billion was spent in medical malpractice payouts, averaging one payout every 43 minutes. (Forbes)

Deirdre is so fed up with doctors who have criminal history’s, including drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and lethal malpractice still being allowed to practice medicine and endangering more lives, and those doctors who just don't seem to care, along with the accompanying excuses and cover-ups, she wants to take her message to the streets.

4:00 pm PST … 5:00 pm MST … 6:00 pm CST … 7:00 pm EST

What does it take to get you on your feet??

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

Family Mourns Loss of Loved One Caught Up in Nevada Guardianship



Following the death of a loved one, the loss became more painful because family members said a system that's supposed to protect families failed them.

Contact 13 began investigating problems with Clark County's guardianship system nearly a year ago, starting with a daughter who had to fight the courts to carry out her father's wishes.

"I miss him. I miss him immensely," Terri Black said.

Terri and her dad, Del Mencarelli, were very close.

Del passed away July 3. Now Terri sorts through the few personal belongings she recovered.

"Just a simple watch. You know nothing fancy," she said. "But this probably was Dad's favorite watch."

The family had a simple plan in place. If the time came when Del couldn't take care of himself, Terri would step in. But things didn't work out that way.

"If my dad knew how the end story of his life has gone, he would have been horrified," Terri said through tears. "This is not the way he wanted it to be. This is not the way he wanted to live out the remainder of his days." Nearly two years ago, Alzheimer's disease was taking a toll on Del's health. Terri, and her husband Rick, came to Las Vegas to take him home to North Carolina, but Del's companion Helen Natko resisted, forcing Terri into a drawn-out and very expensive court battle.

"That's a hell that no one should ever be put through," Rick said.

Source:
Family Mourns Loss of Loved One Caught up in Guardianship

See Also:
NASGA: Del Mancarelli, Nevada Guardianship Victim

Neglected to Death at 96, Justice for Irena



Source:
Neglected to Death at 96, Justice for Irene

Portsmouth sued for trying to silence whistleblower in $2.3M inheritance scandal


Police commissioner on Goodwin scheme: 'Good for him'

John Connors, a former Portsmouth police officer

By PAT GROSSMITH

CONCORD - Auxiliary  Portsmouth police officer John Connors is suing city officials, including the police chief, alleging they violated his free speech rights by placing him under a gag order after he blew the whistle on the allegedly unethical activities by a Portsmouth police detective who inherited the bulk of the multi-million dollar estate of Connors' elderly next door neighbor.

Connors retired in 1995 after a 22-year career but worked occasionally as a part-time auxiliary officer.  He filed the civil rights lawsuit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court against Police Chief Stephen DuBois, Police Commission Chairman John F. Golumb, police commissioner Gerald Howe and the city.

"The police department has received and is reviewing the lawsuit. We cannot comment further on pending litigation," said DuBois in an email.

In the lawsuit, Connors says beginning in August 2010, he continually reported to police what he viewed as the unethical activities of Detective Sgt. Aaron Goodwin, who he frequently saw visiting Connors' elderly and wealthy neighbor Geraldine Webber, who was in her 90s and suffering from dementia.

In late September 2010, when Connors reported for work at the station, he learned police were at Webber's home the previous night for a reported prowler. Connors told police Webber's mind was wandering and she was imagining it because she "wasn't all there." After that event, he says Goodwin began increasingly visiting his Shaw Road neighbor.

In October 2010, Connors ran into Atty. James Ritzo, Webber's long-time legal counsel. He mentioned the frequent visits by Goodwin and told Ritzo that, in his opinion, Goodwin was spending too much time visiting Webber and that he was up to no good, according to the lawsuit. Ritzo told Connors that Webber's will could not be changed due to her mental condition.

About 20 days after the prowler incident, Connors met Webber at her mailbox. She told him she had met the man of her dreams, that she was in love with Goodwin, who is in his mid-30s, and would marry the policeman (Goodwin). Connors told her that would never happen.

On Oct. 18, 2010, Connors brought his concerns to then-police chief Lou Ferland but the chief told him he should stay out of it, according to the lawsuit. He then told DuBois, who at the time was deputy chief, but he did not respond, according to the lawsuit.

Next, Connors stopped at the home of Commissioner John Russo, who lived near him, and told him of his concerns. "I was wondering where all the police cruisers were going," Russo responded. Russo, according to Connors, said Webber had plenty of money and if Goodwin could get some of it and get away with it, "Good for him," according to the lawsuit.

In early January 2011, Connors believes someone reported him to the Attorney General's Office as stalking Webber. He called Assistant Attorney General John McCormack who told him he was being looked at but was not the center of any investigation. Connors told the prosecutor Goodwin was acting against the law and should be investigated.

Seven months before she died, Webber changed her will, leaving the bulk of her $2.7 million estate, including a waterfront home, to Goodwin. The home later was sold for $820,000, according to Atty. Paul McEachern, who represents Connors.

A court case disputing Goodwin's inheritance is pending in 7th Circuit-Probate Division-Dover. Webber's will was challenged based on her lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence by Goodwin.

After news stories were published in the Portsmouth Herald, Connors decided to speak publicly about the situation and an article appeared in the Aug. 3, 2014 Sunday edition. In it, Connors alleged Goodwin visited Webber's home in an unmarked police cruiser "hundreds of times" before she died. Goodwin, Connors said, knew he was watching because sometimes he would take photos of him while other times he would take his dogs outside.

"I wasn't being nosy," Connors was quoted in the article. "I was watching a crime as far as I was concerned."

Goodwin denied Connors allegations.

Two days after the article ran, police served Connors with a "Notice of Complaint" charging him with violation of media policy, insubordination, and malfeasance. He was ordered to no longer speak publicly about the Webber matter and was told he was a police officer 24 hours a day.

McEachern said Connors didn't work as an auxiliary police officer from the time he was charged with violating media policy until last month when he volunteered to work the Portsmouth High School graduation. That same day, McEachern said, DuBois issued a finding that Connors had violated the department's media policy and ordered him to undergo training on it.

Connors says in the lawsuit that he remains under what amounts to a permanent gag order, having been told he needs DuBois' permission to speak out on the Webber matter.

McEachern says Connors learned about what was going on with Goodwin and Webber because he was her neighbor, not because he was a police officer, and says he spoke out because it "was a matter of public interest."

Goodwin was fired last month after an investigation headed by retired Judge Stephen Roberts found he had violated department regulations and the city's Code of Ethics, all related to the inheritance.

Full Article & Source:
Portsmouth sued for trying to silence whistleblower in $2.3M inheritance scandal

See Also:
Portsmouth Police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin fired

Police officer: 'I was watching a crime'

Conflict of Interest? Explanations Needed! 

Portsmouth officer to be deposed about $2.7M inheritance

Police Commission Authorizes Probe of Shady Inheritance

Police brass caught in cop's disputed inheritance case