Crying family members tell horror stories to members of guardianship task force
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On Thursday, crying, angry family members lined up to tell the first-ever statewide task force on guardianship their horror stories. Many complained that professional guardians and their attorneys are taking advantage of their loved ones, often elderly parents or grandparents.
“Shame on all of you! You all know about it! Every single one of you here knows about it,” Mitzi Perotta said.Advertisement
“My mother has been trapped in guardianship for four years,” Craig Schaeffer said.
“How long do we have before more of our wards are emotionally and financially destroyed? When will we actually see a change?” Linda DeWitte said.
A guardian’s job is to oversee medical and financial decisions for the physically or mentally incapacitated, called “wards.” This group was created to improve the program by recommending new laws to improve oversight and reduce fraud and abuse.
“We don’t need a good guardian system. We need the best guardian system,” state Sen. Jennifer Bradley said.
The statewide task force on guardianship was formed shortly after this March audit was released from the Comptroller of Orange County, saying the guardian program was not being adequately supervised by the clerk’s office.
Rebecca Fierle, charged with two felonies related to the death of one of her wards, played a central role in the audit. It found that she and a dozen other professional guardians spent money that was not approved by the court.
The audit also found a lack of training in the clerk’s office, missing or inaccurate information in case files and judges being unaware of guardians not following the law, all claims Orange County’s clerk denied, calling the comptroller’s staff misinformed about her duties and responsibilities in guardian cases.
The task force will come up with recommended changes to the guardian system by October.