Financial caretakers appointed to assist the elderly and disabled in Outagamie County face more stringent requirements after a former guardian was charged with siphoning nearly $500,000 from clients.
New rules that took effect Jan. 1 are aimed at adding safeguards to the guardianship system that prosecutors say was exploited by Jeffrey M. Schend of Appleton.
Schend faces a trial in March on six felony counts of theft and one misdemeanor theft charge. In watchdog reporting after his arrest last year, The Post-Crescent found that he operated within a system that relied largely on his word alone.
State law does not require detailed audits, the newspaper found. Even if the law did, the oversight office in Outagamie County would not be able to handle the workload, its director said at the time.
Generally, the new rules require guardians to provide more detailed financial records to Outagamie County's circuit courts as part of their responsibility to clients who are deemed incompetent to handle their own affairs.
Also, county officials now will choose guardianship cases randomly each year for review, and those guardians will be required to give the court all receipts and canceled checks for the year. And, the rules also establish fines for guardians whose failure to answer questions about their work require court intervention.
"It's a good idea," said Gary Apitz of Bryant, guardian for his 63-year-old developmentally disabled brother who lives in an Appleton nursing home. Schend had served as the guardian for Apitz's brother when he lived in Shawano County. A judge there ordered Schend to pay nearly $5,000 based on the man's unpaid bills.
"Every guardian should be responsible to explain what he's done," Apitz said.
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