As a Denver librarian, Jeanne Hamer was surrounded by friends. When a new library was built in 1982, nearly 200 of them gave her a surprise party there.
But in her retirement, Hamer grew more isolated from family and friends. Her only child, a daughter afflicted with a mental illness, died in 2000. After that, her closest relative was a cousin in Massachusetts.
She came to depend on an old friend and former library employee, Robert Shaklee. In 1990, she signed a form giving him power of attorney to make medical decisions. Nine years later he became her court-appointed conservator.
The turning point in her retirement came in 2001, when she wandered away from her south Denver home and was reported missing for three days.
After she was found, Shaklee took her to an assisted-living facility in Denver without explaining where she was going and placed her there, never to return home.
A court battle ensued, pitting Shaklee against Hamer's distant relatives, a close friend, a Denver lawyer and Hamer's ex-husband.
Four years passed before anyone at the court noticed that Shaklee had not sold Hamer's house. However, he had submitted detailed expense reports. For example:
In 2001, when Hamer was missing for three days, he had charged her $1,198 for his time, including $45 an hour to drive around looking for her and $104 a night to sleep at her house in case she showed up. After putting her in Sunrise, he had charged her $13 a day for three weeks to feed her cat.
Over the years, he paid himself hundreds of times for picking up her mail, visiting her, walking with her or reading to her. For more skilled services — taking her to a doctor or dentist, meeting with the Sunrise staff, discussing her with his lawyer, paying bills — he charged $45 an hour.
Nobody challenged any of these expenses until November 2006. That month, court employee Caroline Cammack noted the various house-related expenses for a ward in an assisted-living home — and labeled some conservator charges "ludicrous."
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Case Two: Conservator's Expense Reports for Woman in Assisted Living Raised Red Flags