Sunday, March 29, 2015

Steve Miller: "Multi-millionaire Leann Peccole Goorjian died in Feb.2008. Jared Shafer is still charging her a $50,000 per year "Administration Fee"

NRS 151.93: Winding up affairs
The guardian of the estate is entitled to retain possession of the ward's property already in the control of the guardian and is authorized to perform the duties of the guardian to wind up the affairs of the guardianship;
(a) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b), 9c) or (d), for not more than 180 days,
or a period that is reasonable and necessary determined by the court after the termination of the guardianship;

Clark County Family Court Guardianship Commissioner Jon Norheim who works under the supervision of Judge Charles Hoskin is allowing this violation of Nevada law to occur.

Leann is the niece of former Clark County Sheriff Ralph Lamb, and the daughter of the late William Peccole, developer of Peccole Ranch in Las Vegas. Leann has two sons, Gavin and Camden who run the family business, Peccole Nevada Corp., and believe Shafer is an "attorney" looking out for their late mother's best financial interest.

Jared Shafer is not an attorney. and I suggest that the Goorgian brothers terminate his "guardianship" immediately, and use whatever remains of her looted estate to set up a UNLV scholarship in her honor. - SM


See also:
Grave Robbery Under Color of Law

"We were told Mr. Shafer is an attorney and he's been looking out of Leann's son's best interest."  (Peccole family member)

"We have one really rich ward whose been dead for over five years."  (Patience Bristol)

Lawyer Who Refused to Give a Client a Refund Says He's Glad Texas State Bar Is Suing Him

In 2007, former television journalist and journalism professor Eric Gormly made history at the University of North Texas for suing one of his own students. In the suit, he accused two professors and the student of conspiring to give him a bad performance review that got him fired. School officials said it was the first time they had heard of a UNT professor suing a student. "The university is disappointed that a former faculty member would file a lawsuit against a student who trusted him to do his job and follow university policy with respect to initiating complaints," a UNT official said at the time.

In an interview now, Gormly downplays his lawsuit against a student. "I did not sue a student. My attorney at the time included a student as one of the defendants," he says.

However you slice it, Gormly clearly caught the legal bug. After leaving teaching, as he explains online, he got a degree from the SMU Dedman School of Law and opened a practice in Richardson that specializes in LGBT cases and family law.

But now it's Gormly's legal career that faces a bump in the road. In February, Gormly was sued in Dallas by the Commission for Lawyer Discipline, a committee in the State Bar responsible for disciplining attorneys. According to the petition filed by the committee, a man named Anthony John Gonzalez had hired Gormly for a post-divorce family law case. Gonzalez paid $2,500 upfront. But Gormly "neglected" the client, the State Bar committee says, so Gonzalez fired him.

Gormly wasn't going to let himself be fired. Gormly "failed to withdraw from the ease, filing a petition on March 12, 2014, after he had been fired and after Gonzalez had made demand that his money be refunded," the commission writes. "Upon termination of representation, Respondent failed to refund advance payment of a fee that had not been earned."

Gormly says that he believes Gonzalez didn't deserve a refund and is confident that he has done nothing wrong. He suggests that his former client acted unethically. "Let's just say he made some accusations that were unfounded and inappropriate and then he threatened to take action," Gormly says.

In fact, Gormly describes angry clients as a widespread problem in the legal industry. "It's becoming more common that the client will fire the attorney and demand all their money back, and if they don't get their money back he'll file a complaint with the State Bar."

When an attorney faces a complaint from a client, the first, lowest level in the grievance procedure is a private disciplinary action handled by the State Bar. Public discipline against attorneys in the district court, on the other hand, isn't common. Gormly is the only attorney so far this year and the first since December to be sued in Dallas by the Commission for Lawyer Discipline, public records show. Nevertheless, Gormly says he wants to be sued by the State Bar.

"When this happened to me, I was so outraged by the unfounded accusations, the audacity -- check that I didn't say that -- I was so outraged by the unfounded accusations, I decided that since I had done absolutely nothing wrong and I had nothing to hide, I wanted to pull this out of the administrative system and put this out in the district court. That was my decision."

He adds: "We're going to fight it in the public, that's my choice,"

In that spirit, you can read his disciplinary suit below:

Full Article & Source:
Lawyer Who Refused to Give a Client a Refund Says He's Glad Texas State Bar Is Suing Him

Bankruptcy Sometimes an Option for Homes Facing Mounting Lawsuits

When a nursing home has been accused of derogating its duty to properly care for a resident or residents, or suffers allegations of not just neglect but abuse, it can be subject to all types of legal action. This includes regulatory sanctions by the state or federal government (if the home accepts Medicare or Medicaid federal dollars), criminal prosecution against a staffer for abuse, a civil lawsuit by a state attorney general, or a civil lawsuit by a victim of neglect or abuse or that victim’s family or guardian. Some nursing homes or holding companies that own chains of nursing homes have seen multiple claims against them, and jury awards or settlement figures that can truly rack up. Yet many can survive because they are financial juggernauts – particularly the bigger, more corporate-owned facilities. This is not always the case, however. If faced with a burgeoning of lawsuits, a nursing home’s owners and administrators may decide it needs protection under bankruptcy law.

California Nursing Home Entity Goes Bankrupt

In recent news, it was reported that a nursing home owner in California filed for bankruptcy because it could be on the hook for millions of dollars if lawsuits against it go against them if there are jury awards or expensive settlements. North American Healthcare owns over thirty nursing homes in the western United States, and one of its facilities in California just faced fines levied by California for providing poor care to its residents on top of numerous lawsuits against them by residents or their families. That particular facility was reportedly fined $100,000 back in 2013 when a patient died from an overdose of a blood thinner, and has been the subject of numerous complaints to the state – one of its current lawsuits stems from a patient’s fall and subsequent death at the facility.

Increase in Health Provider Bankruptcies

As the New York Times has reported, from 2010 to 2014 there was a 38% increase in bankruptcy filings by healthcare providers across the country, presumably due to the types of lawsuits brought by patients as well as lawsuits and enforcement-type actions brought by the government for poor care or for accusations of health insurance (e.g. Medicaid) fraud. The health care entities making these filings include hospitals, home health care services, and nursing homes. Typical filings are under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code, which allows for reorganization by an entity in order to shed debt, pay off certain debt, and become leaner yet remain functioning. Creditors, including those awaiting payments from a litigation award, must get in line to split what is available, and that could mean a smaller payout than what they were supposed to have received. As the article states, Chapter 11 filings overall dropped 60% during that 2010-2014 time, indicating the even starker difference between the need for bankruptcy protection between the health care industry and other industries.

Ulterior Motives?

Some critics ascribe bankruptcy filings not to an effort to become fiscally solvent and viable again, but rather as an escape mechanism to avoid the possible judgment awards or settlement payments that could happen. Proponents and the facility owners simply see it as a last ditch resort of self-preservation. In this particular case, the defendant company is still profitable, but anticipates it will not be if it loses too many lawsuits, therefore it is preemptively seeking bankruptcy protection.

Full Article & Source:
Bankruptcy Sometimes an Option for Homes Facing Mounting Lawsuits

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Miami Will Finally Try to Fix Its Crooked Guardianship Programs

Last spring, New Times published the results of a five-month investigation into Miami-Dade's guardianship system — the program set up by the courts to protect the assets of vulnerable people. Except in South Florida, it had become a politically-connected, un-regulated cesspool of abuse.

One year later, as Tallahassee works to overhaul the guardianship system statewide, Miami-Dade's courts are finally taking small steps toward reform. But the most obvious change — a dedicated county watchdog to sniff out corruption — is still nowhere to be found.

For decades, Miami's judges have been given essentially free reign to appoint anyone they chose to be a guardian — a position of tremendous power over a vulnerable resident, with wide leeway to control their assets, bank accounts and medical care. New Times investigation found that power was regularly abused, including:
• There were regular failures to file basic information. Guardians were often years late in filing financial forms, and until this month, Miami-Dade lacked any electronic system to track the programs.
• Guardians have given thousands in donations to the election campaigns of the same judges who appoint them to cases and award them their fees.
This week, Miami's probate courts instituted a new system to at least start addressing that final point. Now, professional guardians must register and cases are assigned on a rotating basis from that pool .

That move comes as multiple bills are working their way through Tallahassee, including efforts to make it more difficult to declare someone incapacitated and to limit how much guardians can be paid for their work.

But there's still one easy fix in Dade that hasn't been funded: A dedicated watchdog. Despite the fact that Miami, as of last spring, had 7,000 guardianship cases — the most in the state — there was no independent oversight of those cases. Palm Beach started a similar program in 2011, and has uncovered more than $3 million in abuse since then; Broward, too, has uncovered millions in guardianship abuse since starting its watchdog program.

Legislators last year gave county clerks new power to investigate abuses, but didn't fund that push; as a result, counties like Dade initiated almost zero new audits.

There's little doubt that Dade's most vulnerable residents are still at risk from unscrupulous guardians; this week's changes will help, but when will a transparent watchdog program come to Miami?

Full Article & Source:
Miami Will Finally Try to Fix Its Crooked Guardianship Programs

Owner of Belleville nursing home where resident was found dead operates 10 facilities with one-star rating

The owner of a Belleville nursing home, where an 85-year-old woman was found dead strapped to a wheelchair at the bottom of a flight of stairs, owns 12 other nursing homes in Illinois — 10, like Midwest, have a one-star rating.

Steve Blisko, who is the principal investor in Senior Healthcare Management in Skokie, near Chicago, operates Midwest Rehabilitation Respiratory, 727 N. 17th St., where Juanita Simmons died on March 12.

Besides Midwest Rehabilitation, formerly the Calvin Johnson Nursing Home, Blisko operates Marion Rehab and Nursing; Herrin Rehab and Nursing; Intergrity Healthcare of Smithton; Ridgway Rehab and Nursing; Chester Rehab and Nursing; Carbondale Rehab and Nursing Center I and II; Integrity of Wood River, and Columbia Nursing and Rehab, all of which have received the lowest rating by Medicare, which is operated by the federal government.

Other nursing homes operated by Senior Healthcare are Anna Rehab and Nursing, which has a four-star rating; Cobden Rehab and Nursing, four stars, and Alton Rehab and Nursing, two stars.

Blisko, 34, of Chicago, could not be reached for comment. Calls placed to his corporate office were not returned.

Nursing home ratings can be found at

In addition, Midwest and Alton Rehab have been named in five wrongful death suits in three years, according to court records in St. Clair and Madison counties.

“Nursing home ownership is a big business. That’s why they buy them,” said Jan Sherrer, a Kentucky-based advocate who writes a blog called “Senior Living Watch” on how relatives should respond when they learn their loved ones are being abused or neglected in a nursing home.

“The biggest thing is consumers need to be screaming at the top of their lungs,” she said. “This happens because of greed.”

State inspectors need to make nursing home owners responsible, answerable and liable, Sherrer said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health licenses and inspects nursing homes. The agency has the ability to pull licenses — and does, said IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold.

Survivors of those who die or are injured in nursing homes also can file a lawsuit. But one lawyer who specializes in suing nursing homes said lawsuits, verdicts and settlements are just the “cost of doing business” for many nursing homes.

“These homes are cash cows for their owners,” said Paul Richter, a Chicago lawyer who specializes in representing clients who sue nursing homes. “They know exactly how many beds they need to fill to make a profit.”

Richter filed one of those suits against Midwest Rehabilitation last year. Richter sued on behalf of the survivors of Lesley Ann Falkenhein, who died on Sept. 17, 2012. Falkenhein, a patient at Midwest, was admitted to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville on Aug. 21, 2012, where she was found to be severely dehydrated, suffering from kidney failure, a urinary tract infection and septic. That lawsuit is pending.

Local attorney Grey Chatham filed suit on behalf of Tim Miller’s estate. According to the suit, Miller suffered from cognition issues and needed to be prompted to eat. Miller, 56, died on May 12, 2013. A doctor found Miller suffered from neglect, dehydration and malnutrition. Miller’s family reported extreme weight loss and they asked the Midwest staff whether he was eating, Chatham said.

“We have a lot of the same issues as the Juanita Simmons’ family. They were coming in and making complaints to staff and those complaints were discounted,” Chatham said. “When you drop someone off at a nursing home, you rely on a duty to care for your loved ones. That duty isn’t being met.”

In another case, the estate of Aubrey Giles sued Midwest and Blisko after Giles was found frozen to death in a creek on Jan. 16, 2012. The suit alleged Midwest staff failed to promptly notify law enforcement to find Giles after he wandered away from the nursing home.

Midwest staff also failed to notify law enforcement after finding Simmons at the bottom of the stairs last week, authorities said. Belleville police dispatchers did receive a call from the facility that morning about 6:32 a.m. on March 12, but the caller only requested an ambulance. Family members contacted a funeral home in Montgomery County who picked up the body.

The funeral home director, who was contacted by Simmons’ daughter, called the St. Clair County Coroner’s Office to ask what type of death certificate was to be issued. Coroner’s office personnel told the funeral home director they had not been notified of the death. In the case of an accidental death, the coroner’s office must sign the death certificate. Simmons’ body was then returned to St. Clair County for an autopsy.

Last week, St. Clair County Coroner Rick Stone said there was an “open and active investigation” into Simmons’ death. On Friday, Stone said he expected to wrap up the investigation by Monday.

Loretta Jean Ulmer and Ruth McCray, Simmons’ sisters, said they saw bruises, cuts, black eyes and stitches they believed were the result of physical abuse of their sister at Midwest Rehabilitation.

“All I want to do is sue and see that place shut down,” Ulmer said. She awaits the completion of the coroner’s investigation.

“I certainly hope they do something about this,” Ulmer said. “I want the investigation to give us some answers and some closure.”

Under Illinois law, the coroner is charged with conducting death investigations, including accidental deaths in hospitals and nursing home.

“No one wants to send a loved one to a nursing home, but sometimes it is a necessity. Hopefully, the choice will be made after careful research into the best one possible,” Stone said. “I know I certainly wouldn’t send my loved one to Midwest Rehab.”

Full Article & Source:
Owner of Belleville nursing home where resident was found dead operates 10 facilities with one-star rating

As nursing homes close, residents scramble to find alternatives

Judith Brown did not learn her nursing care facility was closing until she went to a hospital for cancer treatment.
Judith Brown did not learn her nursing care facility was closing
until she went to a hospital for cancer treatment.

Hundreds of frail nursing home residents have been forced to move as a growing number of Massachusetts facilities have been bought, sold, and closed over the past two years, state records show.

But the public has had virtually no say in the process. A Massachusetts law passed last summer was designed to provide public comment about the closing or sale of nursing homes, yet state officials have not put that into effect. Regulators say they are still working on rules to implement the law.

Since the public-input law passed, 10 nursing homes have been sold and one closed, and none received a public hearing.

The upheaval in the state’s nursing home industry, which mirrors national trends, has left families with fewer choices, and forced them to scramble to find alternative facilities.

Industry leaders say they are forced to close homes because Medicaid reimbursements from the state do not cover the true cost of care, a gap the Massachusetts Senior Care Association calculates at $34 a day, per patient. For the average nursing home, that translates into a loss of $750,000 a year, the industry group said.

Nursing homes have been closing and changing hands at a rapid rate; since January 2013, 57 have been sold, and nine have closed.

“Families would not be able to place a loved one in a facility in over one-third of the state’s cities and towns if just one facility in that city or town were to close,” said Ann Marie Antolini, a vice president at the Massachusetts Senior Care Association.

Families who dealt with recent closings do not cite reimbursements or regulations when they describe their experiences. Instead, they speak of unsettling situations and confusion.

Scott Brown, a 37-year-old from Attleboro, said his family received abrupt notice in November 2013 that his mother was losing her spot at Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation-Goddard in Stoughton.
“It was shocking,” he said.

Brown said the family found out the facility was closing when his 66-year-old mother, Judith, was being transferred from Kindred to the hospital for cancer treatments, and Kindred officials told the family she would not be allowed to return because the facility was closing.

“She was getting wonderful care, she was comfortable with it, and it had to all change,” Brown said. Kindred was just 3 miles from the home of Brown’s father, Kenneth, so the 71-year-old could easily drive to visit his wife.

When Judith, a diabetic who was battling bone cancer, was discharged from the hospital about a week later, the family had to find another nursing home, and chose one in Canton, more than twice the distance from the elder Brown’s home.

“She had to deal with all new staff,” people who didn’t know how to take care of her as well, Brown’s son said. Judith Brown, a longtime special education teacher’s aide at Stoughton High School, died two months later, in January 2014.

Her son said he hopes the new law will provide other families an opportunity his did not receive. “The public,” he said, “should have some sort of input” in nursing home closings.

State rules require nursing homes to notify regulators at least 60 days before they intend to sell or close a facility, and to provide families at least a 45-day warning. The homes must also try to find “appropriate alternate placements” for each patient within 25 miles of the facility or the patient’s family and friends, under state rules.

Advocates say families need more time and more say in how the closing and sale of nursing homes is handled. Until now, regulators’ decisions about nursing home sales and closings have been conducted behind closed doors — unlike the review for hospitals, which are required to undergo public scrutiny, even for renovations or expansions.

State regulators have been meeting with advocates and industry leaders to hear their concerns, and plan to release proposed new rules for a public hearing process soon, said Deborah Allwes, director of the health department’s Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality, which oversees nursing homes.

“Our number one priority is to make sure that closures happen in a systematic and safe way for families and residents,” Allwes said.

But Allwes said that when nursing homes are being sold or closed, the agency does not have the authority to require that enough facilities will exist in a region, especially areas with low-income patients. A 2011 study by Brown University researchers found that nursing homes nationwide were more likely to close in areas with higher proportions of black, Hispanic, and poor residents.

The union that represents nursing home workers, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, said those sorts of concerns should be scrutinized. The union is lobbying for creation of a special commission to study the problems and propose recommendations “to help ensure a rational and compassionate approach to the ongoing market consolidation, one that prioritizes the interests of nursing home residents, families, and caregivers,” said Veronica Turner, the union’s executive vice president.

The frenetic pace of sales and closures is expected to continue, given that about 5,000 beds are unused among the state’s roughly 420 nursing homes. At the same time, large nursing home chains are buying up smaller ones, and elders are increasingly choosing to remain in their homes.

Paul Lanzikos, a former state Elder Affairs secretary, said Massachusetts has lacked a coherent strategy for nursing homes for years.

“We have not set a vision as a Commonwealth to say how we want to create these environments. That is being left to the [industry],” said Lanzikos, who is now a member of the Public Health Council, an appointed state panel that adopts health policy. “I am not being anti-[industry]. But this process is knee-jerk.”

Full Article & Source:
As nursing homes close, residents scramble to find alternatives

Friday, March 27, 2015

Daughter pleads guilty in 100-year-old mother's abuse death

BELLEFONTAINE, Ohio — Mary Strawser has never said why she neglected her own mother for years, why she didn’t feed her or clean her or ever even get the 100-year-old woman the medical attention she so clearly needed as a slow and painful death crept closer.

But Strawser admitted today for the first time that she did, in fact, let Blanche Cowen suffer and die on a ratty old couch, emaciated, dehydrated and covered in her own filth.

Strawser, 77, pleaded guilty in Logan County Common Pleas Court to felony charges of reckless homicide and theft from an elderly person. She had originally been charged with involuntary manslaughter but Prosecutor William T. Goslee said even though she is pleading to a different charge, he will still argue that Strawser be sent to prison.

“She should not get a free pass,” Goslee said. “I’ve never seen a worse case of elder abuse and neglect. Not ever.”

Judge Mark S. O’Connor allowed Strawser to remain free on bond until she is sentenced on May 4. She faces as many as six years in prison.

Cowen had been kept for years in a dilapidated house trailer about 15 feet away from Strawser’s nearly 1,400-square-foot, well-maintained house on 20 acres in rural Rushsylvania. Authorities found her dead on the dirty couch on March 10, 2014, after Sonny Ray Scott, a mentally-disabled man Strawser had allowed to live there, called 911 to say Cowen wasn’t breathing.

The coroner said Cowen died of dehyradation, a urinary tract infection and infection from untreated bedsores the size of footballs, some so deep that her bones were exposed. But those medical explanations don’t really convey the condition that Cowen had been left in for years. Her adult diaper hadn’t even been changed in probably a year and had mostly rotted away, said Mike Brugler, a detective with the Logan County sheriff’s office.

The photographs of her condition were so graphic that prosecutors say they will show them to O’Connor in his private chambers rather than in open court before Strawser is sentenced. And moreover, Goslee said, an autopsy showed that internally, Cowen otherwise would have been in remarkable health for a women her age and friends who had spoken to her on the phone over time said she never lost her faculties. Which all means she suffered a great deal as her body slowly decayed and wasted away, Goslee said.

Assistant Prosecutor Sarah Warren said that as Strawser was living on her mother’s monthly $650 Social Security check for the last few years — shopping, eating out and even going to the doctor herself — Cowen hadn’t seen a doctor since she broke her foot in 2008. Relatives were kept away after that, and it appears the last time Cowen was moved from the couch was a year before her death in May 2013, when Strawser and Scott dragged a kiddie pool into the living room and “bathed” her and took her to a gathering for her 100th birthday..

Strawser had allowed Scott to stay with her mother rent-free in exchange for helping with her care. But he was barely able to care for himself. He was in poor health and had a low-functioning IQ. He had faced the same charges as Strawser for Cowen’s death, but he died of a heart attack in December in the same run-down trailer where Cowen died. He was 66.

Today, as Warren read through the graphic nature of Cowen’s condition, Strawser just shook her head no. In answer to the judge’s questions, Strawser said she’d only completed the 10th grade in school and had once worked at a factory in Kenton. Otherwise, she said nothing on her own behalf. Her attorney, William F. Kluge, said he expects to present her side of the story at sentencing.

Warren said Scott’s death complicated matters and played a role in allowing Strawser to plead to a lower-degree felony charge. Her age, and the question of whether she would even get more prison time with the original charge, also factored in.

But Warren agrees with Goslee that prison is appropriate. She said Strawser’s neglect of her mother appeared not only to be motivated by money but also by hatred.

“Distant relatives have said that Mary Strawser was just not a nice person,” Warren said. “They say she had always treated her mother badly.”

Goslee said he hopes the case sends a message to others: “If you assume the duty of care of an elderly person ... and if you fail, if you neglect their needs, you can and will be criminally charged.”

Full Article & Source:
Daughter pleads guilty in 100-year-old mother's abuse death

Judicial discipline commission admonishes lawyer, former candidate Jeannette Robertson

Jeannette Robertson
JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has admonished Jonesboro attorney Jeannette Robertson for her actions during the 2014 election.

The commission issued the Letter of Admonishment on Friday during its meeting in Little Rock.

According to the letter, Robertson misrepresented her role as a magistrate in the 2012 and 2014 elections. The commission claimed her campaign advertisements depicted her as a judge when she was not.

In 2012 Robertson was a candidate for District 1, Position 2 of the Arkansas Court of Appeals.
On May 11, 2012, David Stewart, executive director of the commission, alleged Robertson titled herself as a judge in campaign advertisements, according to a news release from the commission.

Robertson's campaign advertisements included statements such as “District Court Judge-Small Claims/Civil-7 Years” and “Special District Court Judge-Criminal Court-as needed-7 Years,” the release stated.

At that time Robertson was neither a duly elected nor appointed judge, the commission stated.

Instead, Robertson had been appointed to serve as a small claims magistrate in her district in 2008.
The commission did not deem her conduct at that time to be “intentional.”

In a letter to Robertson the investigation panel informed Robertson to cease using the word “judge” in her campaign materials. Violation, the panel stated, would be considered “a willful violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.”

The panel further informed Robertson that any future similar campaign conduct “would be considered misleading and could be subject to formal discipline for willful misconduct.”

According to the commission, Robertson agreed to halt usage of the word “judge” in campaign materials.

Two years later, while running for District 2, Circuit Judge, Division 10, the panel said Robertson authorized at least 2 television campaign advertisements publicizing herself wearing a judge's robe and sitting behind a bench, discussing her “judicial experience.”

Robertson also presented herself as having “8 years judicial experience” in 2 website advertisements, the commission stated in its release.

When notified of the complaints, Robertson removed the ads.

The commission found her actions violated Canons 1.1, 1.2 and 4.1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

According to the release, “Robertson has been open and candid with her communication regarding her reasons for this action. She has been cooperative and honest with the Commission in compliance with Canon 2, Rule 2.16.”

Region 8 News reached out to Robertson for comment. We have yet to hear back from her.  To read the letter of admonishment, click here.

Full Article & Source:
Judicial discipline commission admonishes lawyer, former candidate Jeannette Robertson

Class action lawsuit filed against Sacramento-based management of Eskaton Village Grass Valley

Homeowners at a luxury 130-unit Nevada County senior living community have filed a class action lawsuit against the Sacramento-based corporate owners of the complex and four of its top managers, alleging financial irregularities and elder abuse.

The suit, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, names Eskaton Village Grass Valley, Eskaton Properties Inc., Eskaton Village Grass Valley Homeowners Association, Eskaton CEO Todd Murch, Chief Operating Officer Betsy Donovan, Operations Director Mark Cullen and former COO Trevor Hammond as defendants in the case. 

Lead plaintiffs are Eskaton homeowners Ronald Coley and Karen Lorini, filing on behalf of themselves and the other 130-plus homeowners, alleging nine complaints of breach of fiduciary duties, financial elder abuse, unfair business practices and negligence. 

“I can’t comment on the particulars, since we are in open litigation,” Murch said on Monday. “The homeowners association will be vigorously defending its side, so that means they disagree with whatever’s being alleged.” 

Part of the complaint alleges that the Eskaton Homeowners Association, rather than being an organization representing homeowners’ interests, is actually controlled by management. 

In addition to some Eskaton homeowners, the board of Eskaton Village Grass Valley Homeowners Association also includes corporate representatives such as Cullen, who served on the board between 2003 through 2012, and Hammond, a board member from 2003 through the middle of 2011. 

“Plaintiffs are informed and believe, and thereon allege, that Eskaton has disregarded the separate corporate existence of EVGV (Eskaton Village Grass Valley), EPI (Eskaton Properties Inc.) and the HOA,” the complaint says. “Among other things, Eskaton has treated HOA property as its own.” 

Both Coley and Lorini declined comment on the case, which is scheduled for a public case management conference on May 21, according to Sacramento County Superior Court public records. The hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. in Department 35 of the Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse. 

The 95-page complaint was first filed Nov. 19, 2014, but an amended first complaint was filed on Jan. 5 by the plaintiffs’ co-counsels, Sacramento-based attorneys David Diepenbrock and Michael Vinding. 

Diepenbrock on Monday declined all comment on the case. Neither Vinding nor defendants’ attorney Rod Baydaline of Sacramento could be reached for comment. Donovan also could not be reached for comment. 

The homeowners’ class action lawsuit is separate from a successful union organizing effort last June. In a landmark election, employees of Eskaton Village Grass Valley became one of the first groups of senior living workers to vote in favor of joining a section of the local Service Employees International Union. 

Larry King, a campus patrol officer at Eskaton, said there have been eight contract negotiating sessions since September, when the union members delivered a proposed 49-page contract to management. He said the sessions have so far been “slow-going,” mostly confined to disputes over language. 

“We haven’t gotten to the financial terms yet,” he said. 

Sources who contacted The Union and who declined to be identified said both the class action lawsuit and the union election are indicative of a widespread pattern of dissatisfaction with management attitudes toward workers and residents in the community. 

As an example of alleged management intimidation, sources cite a Feb. 12 letter in which the Eskaton HOA’s legal committee notified homeowners about the costs of the lawsuit and warned that “special assessments levied against each member may be required to pay for this unanticipated expense this year if our insurance carrier denies coverage.” 

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Union, the legal committee states that “the purpose of this letter is to make you aware of this litigation, and to give you sufficient notice that special assessments may be required.” 

According to the complaint, Eskaton Village Grass Valley includes 287 housing units, of which 130 are individually owned condominium units sometimes referred to as “patio homes.” The patio homeowners pay a monthly “assessment” to cover various services, such as landscaping and security patrol. 

Of numerous allegations in the complaint, plaintiffs allege “breach of fiduciary duties” in regard to mandated 3 percent annual increases in the cost to homeowners for a variety of services “supposedly needed to pay for increased personnel costs,” the complaint says. 

“Plaintiffs learned for the first time in 2014, however, that EVGV employees have received no raises since 2010,” the complaint adds. “Thus, the increases were unjustified and improper for nonexistent wage increases.” 

A copy of the complaint is attached to this story at

Full Article & Source:
Class action lawsuit filed against Sacramento-based management of Eskaton Village Grass Valley