Archive for October, 2013

Elderly at Risk and Haphazardly Protected

October 31, 2013

Workers found 82-year-old Vincenzina Pontoni submerged in a deep whirlpool bathtub. She had drowned. Pontoni, a resident of an assisted living facility near Cleveland, wasn’t supposed to be left alone; her care chart stated that facility workers were to stand by while she was bathing “for safety.” But records show she had been unsupervised for at least an hour that day in 2010, with deadly consequences.

State law in Ohio does not require assisted living facilities to alert regulators at the Ohio Department of Health when a resident dies under questionable circumstances, so administrators at Pontoni’s facility never did. While law enforcement did an investigation – ruling the death an accident – the people actually charged with safeguarding seniors in assisted living never so much as visited the facility in response to Pontoni’s death. Indeed, the Department of Health was unaware of how Pontoni died until notified by a reporter investigating assisted living for ProPublica and “Frontline.”

When asked about Pontoni’s death, and whether the Department of Health feared other care issues had been overlooked, Tessie Pollock, a department spokeswoman, said it did not appear that any regulation had been violated by the Cleveland facility. She encouraged the families of residents in the state’s assisted living facilities to be vigilant on behalf of their loved ones.

Ohio’s hands-off approach to regulating assisted living is hardly an aberration.

Over the past two decades, assisted living has undergone a profound transformation. What began as a grassroots movement aimed at creating a humane and innovative alternative to nursing homes has become a multibillion-dollar industry that houses some 750,000 American seniors. Assisted living facilities, at least initially, were meant to provide housing, meals and help to elderly people who could no longer live on their own.

But studies show that increasing numbers of assisted living residents are seriously ill and that many suffer from dementia. The workers entrusted with their care must manage complex medication regimens, safeguard those for whom even walking to the bathroom can be dangerous, and handle people so incapacitated they can be a threat to themselves or others.

Yet an examination by ProPublica and “Frontline” found that, in many states, regulations for assisted living lag far behind this reality.

Full Article and Source:
Elderly at Risk and Haphazardly Protected

See Also:
Life and Death in Assisted Living

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State-by-State Key Rules and Regulations Governing Assisted Living Facilities (ALF’s)

October 31, 2013
ProPublica set out to compile the key rules and regulations governing assisted living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This information was gathered from state regulatory agencies, an examination of state codes and other records, and a 2013 review prepared by the National Center for Assisted Living, an industry trade group.
 

Source:
Review State-by-State Key Rules and Regulations Governing Assisted Living

Defendant Refuses to Communicate With His Attorneys; Exploitation Case Still Set for Trial

October 31, 2013

Defendant Richard Edwards’ actions with regard to refusing to communicate with his attorneys are detrimental to no one but himself, he was told by a judge Tuesday.

Mr. Edwards, 44, is charged with felony exploitation of the elderly. The defendant allegedly took $110,000 from the life savings of a 100-year-old retired teacher.

Circuit Judge Dan Kellogg told the defendant he’d only hurt himself by not talking with the two attorneys.
 
The judge also heard a motion Tuesday for a continuance filed by Christopher Bowers and Robert Young. The two attorneys have filed repeated motions to withdraw from the case, and Mr. Kellogg has denied them. Mr. Bowers and Mr. Young notified the court Tuesday that prosecutor Ron Holliday had provided additional discovery on Oct. 16.
That information, from testimony given by Donnie Embrey, 46, was the opposite of what their client had told them. Mr. Embrey entered a guilty plea in September to taking about $242,000 from the victim. Both attorneys wanted more time to take depositions from Mr. Embrey and other possible witnesses.
 
Mr. Bowers notified the court that he’d appealed Mr. Kellogg’s previous ruling, refusing to allow the attorneys to withdraw.
 
“I doubt the Court of Appeals will address this issue,” Mr. Holliday said.

Full Article and Source:
Exploitation Case Still Set for Trial

ABC Action News: Questionable Guardianship Real Estate Transactions

October 30, 2013

When we started looking at real estate transactions in guardianship cases in Pinellas County, FL, we found some disturbing trends.

We discovered that judges routinely approved the sale of wards’ homes (in most cases, their largest asset) without obtaining appraisals from a certified appraiser.

Guardian Patricia Johnson has used fellow Pinellas Park City Council member Richard Butler (who was her campaign manager) to conduct nearly all of the sales of ward’s homes since 2010.
Records show Butler has sold 14 of Johnson’s ward’s homes for a total of $1,252,500.

On Sept. 13, 2013, Richard Butler listed Jennie Shabych’s home located at 2863 26th Ave N., St. Petersburg and got a contract on it the same day. Shabych, however, was not incapacitated by the judge’s order until September 16th, 2013.

Claudette Batton’s home 216 54th St. N., St. Petersburg sold twice on Nov. 8, 2012. The first time, it sold for $52,500, then again for $58,500.

Rebie Jimenez’s home at 5965 15th St N., St. Petersburg sold for $85,100 on Oct. 5, 2012 and was resold on Feb. 28, 2013 for $170,000.

Ronald Till’s home at 6141 26th Ave N., St. Petersburg sold for $69,000 on Sept. 27, 2012. It was resold for $132,000 on Mar. 22, 2013.

Source:
Questionable Guardianship Real Estate Transactions

Arizona Wants a Database to Track People Under Court-Ordered Mental Health Treatment

October 30, 2013

The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission wants a database to keep track of people who are under court-ordered mental health treatment.

The database known as the Mental-Health Registry is under construction and will be managed by the state Supreme Court, according to the Arizona Capitol Times (http://bit.ly/163zbyY).

It will tell police officers whether a person exhibiting possible signs of mental illness is undergoing treatment under the supervision of the court or deemed mentally incompetent by a court.

Proposed legislation also would close gaps in laws that prohibit certain people from possessing a firearm, such as those who are under indictment, under guardianship for mental incapacity or found to be mentally incompetent.

The state currently reports people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the database used for checking the backgrounds of gun buyers.

However, only about 10 percent of them are reported because of an inadequate digital record-keeping system.

The state doesn’t report people who have been determined to be incompetent.

Full Article and Source:
Correction – Mental Health Database Story

Home Health Aid Accused of Exploitation

October 30, 2013

A Minneapolis woman who provided home health care for a Rochester woman will make her first court appearance Monday after being accused of stealing jewelry and pawning it.

Danielle Marie Johnson, 30, was charged in September in Olmsted County District Court with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and theft, both felonies; and pawning the property of another, a misdemeanor.

The alleged victim, a quadriplegic, suffers from lung disease and mental health issues, according to court documents.

Full Article and Source:
Home Health Aid Accused of Exploitation, Theft From Rochester Woman

Castro Valley care home patients abandoned

October 29, 2013

Fourteen sick and elderly patients were abandoned at a Castro Valley assisted living facility when the staff apparently walked out Thursday after the state ordered the home closed, Alameda County sheriff’s deputies said.

Paramedics called to Valley Manor Residential Care at 17926 Apricot Way on Saturday afternoon found a notice on the door from the state Department of Social Services ordering the site to be closed as of Oct. 24.

Inside, they found the patients, many of them bedridden, attended by only a handful of staff members.

“Thursday came around, and the majority of the staff left and the majority of the patients remained,” said sheriff’s Sgt. J.D. Nelson.

The staff members who stayed, including a cook, a janitor and what is believed to be a single caretaker, “stayed because they felt bad for the patients,” Nelson said. “They weren’t getting paid or anything.”

The patients all were taken by ambulance to other centers in the county, and none seemed to be suffering additional health problems from their abandonment.

The transport wasn’t easy, Nelson added.

“We had people who were bedridden, in wheelchairs, amputees and people with mental problems. It ran the gamut,” he said.

Deputies are still trying to determine how many people were at the center when it closed to ensure that none of the patients had wandered off on their own, Nelson said.

As of Saturday night, sheriff’s investigators had not been in touch with the center’s owners or the state officials responsible for the closure.

“Right now we have a lot more questions than answers,” Nelson said. “There’s a question of what happens when the state closes a home, whether they send anyone in afterward to see what happened.”

The incident is being treated as a criminal case, and the investigation is continuing.

“All we know is that 14 people were left here today that shouldn’t have been there by themselves,” Nelson said.

Full Article and Source:
Castro Valley care home patients abandoned

Ex-judge Hale agrees to six-month law license suspension

October 29, 2013

Former Franklin County Environmental Court Judge Harland H. Hale will be suspended from practicing law for six months if the Ohio Supreme Court accepts an agreement he reached with the court’s disciplinary counsel.

The agreement includes an admission by Hale that he committed judicial misconduct by dismissing a speeding ticket in December 2011 for a lawyer who represented him in state and federal lawsuits.

Hale, who sat on the bench for a decade, announced his retirement on May 9, one week after the disciplinary counsel filed a complaint against him over the incident. He said at the time that he would continue his career as a lawyer.

Hale was scheduled for a September hearing before a three-member panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, but instead he reached what is known as a “discipline by consent” agreement with the disciplinary counsel.

The panel approved the agreement and recommended it to the full 28-member board. The board considered the agreement on Oct. 11 and recommended it to the Supreme Court.

The agreement and six-month suspension aren’t official without approval by the court. Joseph M. Caligiuri, chief assistant disciplinary counsel, said yesterday that there is no timetable for the court’s decision.

“It’s in a holding pattern now,” he said. “They can accept it or reject it. They can’t modify it.”
Lawyers facing a disciplinary hearing are always encouraged to reach an agreement with the disciplinary counsel, Caligiuri said.

“A minority of the cases result in a consent to discipline,” he said.

Hale and a Cincinnati lawyer who represented him in the case did not return messages yesterday.
The Dispatch reported in April 2012 that Hale had dismissed a speeding ticket in December 2011 for lawyer Patrick M. Quinn, who was representing him in lawsuits related to sexual-harassment complaints.

Hale dismissed the ticket “without any involvement from the prosecutor or Quinn” and signed a judgment that “falsely stated: Prosecutor dismisses,” according to the agreement.

Four months later, he engaged in improper communication regarding the case by separately contacting Quinn and Chief City Prosecutor Lara Baker-Morrish. He asked each to sign an entry indicating that the ticket was dismissed “with the consent of the Columbus city attorney’s office and the defendant.” Baker-Morrish refused.

Hale eventually vacated the dismissal and removed himself from the case. Quinn pleaded guilty and paid a $55 fine and $116 in court costs on the day that Hale withdrew.

Quinn represented Hale in three lawsuits that stemmed from complaints of inappropriate behavior against the judge by a court employee and a defendant in a drunken-driving case. All three cases eventually were settled out of court.

He is the first Franklin County judge to be named in a complaint by the disciplinary counsel since 2005, when then-Domestic Relations Judge Carole Squire was accused of abusing the rights of those who came before her and not following the law. She was defeated for re-election one year later, and the Supreme Court suspended her law license for one year in October 2007.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-judge Hale agrees to six-month law license suspension

See Also:
Ohio Judge Accused of Misconduct for Dismissing His Own Lawyer’s Speeding Ticket

Ohio: Judge Accused of Dismissing His Lawyer’s Traffic Ticket Quits

Casey Kasem Near Death but Alert, Children Suing Wife Jean for Conservatorship NOT Will and Money

October 29, 2013

Casey Kasem is near death but alert, according to some statements from sources close to the matter. This announcement comes after his children announce they may be suing his current wife, Jean.

Reports indicate that the children are seeking conservatorship of their father and are not looking to alter his will or get money from the legendary broadcaster.

Kasem, who has made a fortune from his distinctive radio voice and delivery style, is not in good health. The popular top 40 host has Parkinsons and has lost the ability to speak. His agent of 35 years, Don Pitts, told CNN about his client’s health:

“He has Parkinson’s, has it very bad. It took his speech, and for somebody who made millions of dollars using his voice–for him to lose that gift, that beautiful instrument–it must be frustrating. But he’s handling it very well. His mind is very sharp, his brain works well. You can tell in his eyes he understands everything you’re saying. He just has trouble translating it from the brain to his vocal cords.”

In an even sadder turn of event, Mr. Kasem’s children have been prevented from seeing their own father. At one point, the kids were camped outside of residence with signs.

The siblings recently spoke to New York Daily News, telling the publication of their intentions moving forward. Kerri Kasem discussed the legal actions they may pursue in order to see their ailing father again:

“We haven’t heard anything from her yet. We’re giving her a chance to respond privately, and if she doesn’t, we’re taking legal action. I think we’re going to wait until Monday or Tuesday. If she doesn’t answer our letters, we’ll have to do it in court. We hope it doesn’t come to that.”

The children want to declare their sister Julie as conservator of Casey. Kerri, who is now 48, discussed why Julie is the logical choice:

“Her forte is working with people in hospice situations. We just want to be sure our dad is being cared for properly. We don’t want to be in charge of his money, just his health care.”

Full Article and Source:
Casey Kasem Near Death but Alert, Children Suing Wife Jeanfor Conservatorship NOT Will and Money

Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Angela Stokes says she will defend against court complaint recommending she undergo psych exam

October 28, 2013

Cleveland Municipal Judge Angela Stokes

Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Angela Stokes said she plans to defend herself against a recent complaint filed by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel that charges she abuses staff and defendants. The complaint also recommends she undergo a psychiatric exam.

“While the recent complaint filed before the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Ohio Supreme Court contains allegations concerning alleged abuse, I am most troubled by the assertion that I may be suffering from a mental illness which interferes in my ability to serve as a judge,” said in a statement released exclusively to the Call & Post, the state’s largest black-owned newspaper. “I have never had mental health issues and will vigorously defend, in the appropriate forum, any suggestion along these lines.”

Stokes also complains about the Plain Dealer’s Monday editorial calling on her to step down.

“While the recent editorial of The Cleveland Plain Dealer cites Disciplinary Counsel’s Complaint against me as if it is fact; nothing could be farther from the truth,” she said. “I am in the process of formulating my defense with the assistance of counsel, and will indeed provide evidence which places the allegations in context.”

The 49-page complaint states that Stokes abuses court resources, abuses lawyers and court staff and defendants who appear before her. The Call & Post did not write a story examining the complaint.
The Plain Dealer has previously documented the same complaints about Stokes and written columns about her, including one that noted the Disciplinary Counsel was tracking her.

Full Article and Source:
Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Angela Stokes says she will defend against court complaint recommending she undergo psych exam