Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Guardian System Flaws Allow For Exploitation

A nonpartisan federal report released in the fall warned of flaws in the guardianship system that leave vulnerable people open to exploitation similar to that detailed in a criminal complaint against an Appleton man accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients.

The report from the Government Accountability Board is the latest to raise a red flag about the system. A 2007 study released by U.S. Sens. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, and Gordon H. Smith, R-Ore., suggested improvements to safeguard people who rely on guardians, and a 2006 report by the AARP Public Policy Institute cautioned that checks on guardians were lax.

Jeffrey M. Schend, who owns the company Outagamie County hired to serve as guardian for 48 people, hasn't told investigators where about $500,000 went after disappearing from some clients' accounts. But there were signs Schend wasn't properly reporting financial transactions, including a $4,700 judgment Shawano County won against him in 2010 for his mishandling of a client's account.

Sylvia Rudek, a director of the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, says Wisconsin's system is weighted so heavily in favor of confidentiality that it prevents adequate oversight of guardians, who are hired mostly by counties after a court has determined a person cannot make safe and sound financial decisions. Most of the people represented by guardians are mentally ill, disabled or elderly.

Rudek said she ran into roadblock after roadblock after learning that a guardian had stolen more than $78,000 from her great-aunt, a Wisconsin resident. Though the guardian, Kathleen Simane, ultimately was sentenced to two years in prison on two theft convictions by a Rock County judge, Rudek said getting the case into the criminal justice system took Herculean efforts.

"We had no idea of what was going on," Rudek said. "I couldn't get any information."

In many states, she said, families can examine a guardian's books, but Wisconsin keeps those records sealed.

"The legislators will tell you the files are closed to protect the ward," she said, using a term often applied to a person represented by a guardian. "In reality, closed files protect the guardian team from oversight."

The report released in September by the federal Government Accountability Office backs up Rudek's contention that guardians are not properly supervised.

Full Article and Source:
Study: Guardian System Flaws Allow for Exploitation

See Also:
Read the GAO's (Government Accountability Office)report: GUARDIANSHIPS - Cases of Financial Exploitation, Neglect and Abuse of Seniors

Court Wants Proof of Jeffrey Schend's Inability to Pay Lawyer


Thelma said...

Well, the feds have long known about the corruption in guardianship, so what the hell are they doing about it?

Betty said...

Remember the GAO report Senator Herb Kohl? And what are you and the Senate Aging Committee doing about it?

StandUp said...

Special thanks to this reporter for not just glossing over the subject, but diving in to it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, very true. The feds, including Sen. Kohl, have done nothing to protect the Righjts of the elderly. Abuse of any kind, especially Guardianship abuse, is against our Constitutional Rights of self-determination and civil rights to our assets.
Hopefully, the reporter has the tenacity to take on this difficult task to bring about drastic changes
for all States to follow. E Boldt

honeybear said...

WHAT? Records are sealed in Wisconsin? You have got to be kidding me!

Sealing of records only encourages thieves like Schend. No wonder he got by with it so long. OUTRAGEOUS!

Anonymous said...

This is such corruption. Many times the attorneys give money for the judge's compaign to become judges, so there is a debt owed. All legal persons involved benifit from sealed records. The guardian has their own lawyer who is connected to this little circle. Of course the victim usually has lots of money for them to spend.

Connie said...

Thanks for representing NASGA, Sylvia. This is a great article!

Anonymous said...

I am not from Wisconsin and now I'm really glad I don't live there.

Holly Barten said...

Excellent reporting.

It takes a lot of effort to present this in a manner that is easy to follow and to comprehend. Every case is somewhat different but it seems the end result is the same being declared a ward of the state is a life sentence most of the time.

Closed files is very problematic for sure how can anyone examine cases? They can't.

Wisconsin is a great state I know I live here the people need to be informed so they can make informed decisions to get their lawmakers to correct the problems.

I don't want this to happen to me now I have to figure out how to protect myself.

jerri said...

isnt this interesting the guardian refuses to tell the police where the money went and the person in charge of the probate files is not responding to questions claiming confidentiality am i the only person who is confused by this? reading stuff like this scares me and we know where there is one there are others but who would know that? i feel so sorry for those poor wards who probably saved all their money for their old age no knowing how it would be taken away from them for what?

Danny said...

"Right on the money" and no pun intended. "Sealing the record" is typically a ploy used to protect the probate mob. Let's get conservatorships out of the court of liquidation.

NASGA member said...

I wonder how many time victims complained to the judge or to the AG or the police and were ignored. How many times did families go to their elected representatives and get turned away?

I am glad to see Schend held accountable, but accountability should also fall on those who enabled his theft for so long.

Thank you for this story. Thank you to the reporter and thank you to Sylvia.

Anonymous said...

Flaws? Judges, guardians, attorneys and others run their own little kingdoms. That's the problem. They get away with it because they are accountable to no one. Discipline boards are just as corrupt.