Monday, October 19, 2015

Alan Miller commentary: Guardian series touched many lives

The old man was among several people who approached me after a recent speech about the day-to-day operations of The Dispatch.

He waited patiently for his turn and then stuck out his hand to shake mine. And with the grip of someone half his age, he held tight and pulled me close.

The man talked about how important the newspaper had been to him and his family during his long life — nearly 80 years, I’d guess. He said the paper is full of information people need to know, and he complimented The Dispatch staff for its work.

Almost as an afterthought, as he squeezed my hand tighter, he offered one more comment:

“I’ve been the beneficiary of your staff’s good reporting,” he said. “That series you did on guardianships — I was one of those people. I was trapped, and I’m a free man now because of what The Dispatch reported.”

We know intuitively that what we do affects lives, but we don’t always know who or how.

The man slipped away before I could ask for more details, but he was talking about the 2014 series titled “Unguarded,” which found gaping holes in how probate courts across the state monitor guardians they appoint for some of Ohio’s most vulnerable residents — the very young and very old, and those with mental disabilities, who are unable to look out for themselves.

The stories, available online at, caused state legislators, probate judges and the Ohio Supreme Court to enact reforms to the guardianship system.

Attorney General Mike DeWine also created guidelines in a handbook that is required to be available to every guardian in the state.

These changes undoubtedly have helped and will help others like the man who said he had been a ward who felt trapped by his guardian.

At the other end of the spectrum of lives affected by this series was a Columbus lawyer who once boasted that with nearly 400 people in his care, he was guardian to more wards than any other.

And he was stealing from some of them. He pleaded guilty in August to four counts of theft from an elderly or disabled person, one count of theft and five counts of tampering with records.

The 65-year-old lawyer was scheduled to be sentenced this week, and faced a maximum of 23 years in prison.

On Oct. 5, the day he was to appear in court on a contempt charge for not following an order to pay back some of his victims, he was found dead of apparent suicide at his Upper Arlington home.

After his death, his heartbroken family issued a statement taking The Dispatch to task for the stories that led to the charges against him.

We were stunned and saddened by his death.

We seek the truth, and what follows revelations of truth is up those who read it. The reactions sometimes can be as shocking as they are profound.

For one man, a series of stories resulted in criminal charges. For another, it resulted in freedom.

Alan D. Miller is editor of The Dispatch.

Full Article & Source:
Alan Miller commentary: Guardian series touched many lives


Betty said...

I did not benefit from the series in the way this wonderful old man did because I don't live in Ohio, but every expose like this raises awareness and from that everybody benefits!

StandUp said...

It was an excellent series. Thank you Columbus Dispatch!