Saturday, February 29, 2020

Walt Disney’s Grandson Sues Judge in Battle Over $200 Million Inheritance

Walt Disney’s grandson, Bradford Lund, filed a civil rights lawsuit Thursday against a judge who Lund says violated his constitutional rights as part of a long-running legal battle over a $200 million inheritance.

According to the lawsuit, Lund’s estranged family members “alleged that he was incapacitated and needed a guardianship and conservatorship” as their way of keeping him from receiving his half of the $400 million left to him and his sister. After a seven-year legal battle in Arizona led to a 10-day day trial, Lund says he was victorious “in all respects and was found to have capacity, resulting in a dismissal of that case.”

Lund’s estranged family appealed but an appellate court affirmed the decision. Walt Disney’s grandson and his estranged family appeared to be close to a settlement last year but Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan did not approve the settlement agreement and instead, on Sept. 27, 2019, appointed a guardian over Lund.

This order was not appealable under California law.

“The decision by Judge Cowan to appoint a (guardian) without a hearing,” the new lawsuit states, “and utterly ignoring constitutional requirements of due process of law is all too reminiscent of a perspective where facts do not matter but alternative facts do, where the constitution does not matter and where the rule of law is set aside and replaced by the rule of subjective, fact-free decision-making.”

Lund believes his incompetence needs to be proven, not the other way around, and argues, “Judge Cowan reversed the burden of proof and required Mr. Lund to prove that he was not incompetent.”

The federal lawsuit is seeking a declaratory judgment saying Judge Cowan violated Lund’s constitutional rights.

A clerk for Judge Cowan said “no comment” when contacted by TheWrap.

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Walt Disney’s Grandson Sues Judge in Battle Over $200 Million Inheritance

New legislation targets judges’ secret investigations of misconduct

The secretive process by which Louisiana judges are investigated or disciplined for misconduct could become more transparent by wresting away the state Supreme Court’s sole power to keep such matters confidential.

That’s the thrust of new legislation co-sponsored by a local lawmaker to make confidential documents and activities of the state Judiciary Commission subject to changes in state law.

Currently, the state Supreme Court sets all rules concerning the Judiciary Commission. Thanks to the Supreme Court, the Judiciary Commission screens its activities from the public.

House Bill 90 could change that. State Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, R-Houma, and Sen. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, pre-filed HB 90 for consideration during the Legislature’s regular session, which begins March 9.

“I feel like there are some people that do not have as much confidence in the judiciary as the judiciary ought to inspire,” Morris said. “Some of that comes from a lack of transparency. This is aimed at making judges, who are elected officials, as transparent as legislators are.”

Zeringue and Morris’ legislation represented a new approach aimed at making the Judiciary Commission’s discipline of judges more transparent.

During the 2019 regular legislative session, Zeringue proposed legislation that would have required the Judiciary Commission to disclose its records whenever the commission disciplined a judge for violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct. As Zeringue noted, the legislation did not ask for the disclosure of every complaint, only those in which a judge was ultimately disciplined.
When Zeringue spoke to The Ouachita Citizen last year about the legislation, he noted the judiciary opposed the legislative measure, which ultimately failed.

“They were adamant. They were opposed to it,” he said. “These are elected officials. The public, quite frankly, has a right to know about the demeanor and judgment of these people. They should know if the Judiciary Commission has admonished or issued rulings.”

According to Zeringue and Morris, a common objection to the legislation last year claimed the state Constitution provided that only the judicial branch of government could change the confidentiality of the Judiciary Commission’s documents and proceedings.

“There was an argument put forth that it was unconstitutional,” Morris said. “This is just to alleviate any future concern that transparency measures would not be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court is responsible for running the judicial branch. We’re not interested in running the judicial branch but want to be assured that their discipline matters are applied uniformly and are transparent.”

Morris said he knew of several judges who would welcome the change.
“It shouldn’t be terribly controversial,” Morris said. “A lot of judges have run on the issue of transparency, so I’m hopeful it will pass.”

Following the failure of Zeringue’s legislation last year and news reporting by The (Baton Rouge) Advocate about certain Judiciary Commission investigations, the Supreme Court issued a rule change in September 2019 seeking to make the Judiciary Commission more transparent. The change allowed for parties involved in a Judiciary Commission proceeding to publicly discuss the matter once the case was closed. The Judiciary Commission still requires anyone who submits a complaint against a judge to refrain from publicly discussing their complaint.

In an interview at the time with The Ouachita Citizen, Zeringue criticized the rule change for not doing much.

“It essentially grants or allows for limited, not unlimited, ability to discuss, so it doesn’t completely free a complainant to talk without certain conditions,” Zeringue said. “Everyone has a constitutional right to talk about it.”

HB 90 has been assigned to the House and Governmental Affairs Committee.

HB 90 is a constitutional amendment, meaning it cannot succeed without approval from two-thirds of the Legislature.

If approved by the Legislature, the constitutional amendment would be proposed to voters in the fall: “Do you support an amendment to provide that matters related to the confidentiality of documents and proceedings related to disciplinary actions against judges shall be provided by law rather than by rules of the state supreme court?”

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New legislation targets judges’ secret investigations of misconduct

Nursing Homes Are a Breeding Ground for a Fatal Fungus

Maria Davila with her husband, Anthony Hernandez. She is one of numerous patients at a Brooklyn nursing home with a highly contagious drug-resistant infection.Credit...Jeenah Moon for The New York Times
By Matt Richtel and Andrew Jacobs

Maria Davila lay mute in a nursing home bed, an anguished expression fixed to her face, as her husband stroked her withered hand. Ms. Davila, 65, suffers from a long list of ailments — respiratory failure, kidney disease, high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat — and is kept alive by a gently beeping ventilator and a feeding tube.

Doctors recently added another diagnosis to her medical chart: Candida auris, a highly contagious, drug-resistant fungus that has infected nearly 800 people since it arrived in the United States four years ago, with half of patients dying within 90 days.

At least 38 other patients at Ms. Davila’s nursing home, Palm Gardens Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Brooklyn, have been infected with or carry C. auris, a germ so virulent and hard to eradicate that some facilities will not accept patients with it. Now, as they struggle to contain the pathogen, public health officials from cities, states and the federal government say that skilled nursing facilities like Palm Gardens are fueling its spread.

“They are the dark underbelly of drug-resistant infection,” said Dr. Tom Chiller, who heads the fungal division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaking about skilled nursing facilities, particularly those with ventilated patients, but not Palm Gardens specifically.

Such nursing homes are playing a key role in the spread in New York, where 396 people are known to be infected and another 496 are carrying the germ without showing symptoms, according to public health officials. In Chicago, half of patients living on dedicated ventilator floors in the city’s skilled nursing homes are infected with or harboring C. auris on their bodies, said Dr. Allison Arwady, the acting commissioner of the city’s Department of Public Health. 

Much of the blame for the rise of drug-resistant infections like C. auris, as well as efforts to combat them, has focused on the overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock, and on hospital-acquired infections. But public health experts say that nursing facilities, and long-term hospitals, are a dangerously weak link in the health care system, often understaffed and ill-equipped to enforce rigorous infection control, yet continuously cycling infected patients, or those who carry the germ, into hospitals and back again.

Credit...Melissa Golden for The New York Times
“They are caldrons that are constantly seeding and reseeding hospitals with increasingly dangerous bacteria,” said Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York who leads the nonprofit Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. “You’ll never protect hospital patients until the nursing homes are forced to clean up.”

The story is far bigger than one nursing home or one germ. Drug-resistant germs of all types thrive in such settings where severely ill and ventilated patients like Ms. Davila are prone to infection and often take multiple antibiotics, which can spur drug resistance. Resistant germs can then move from bed to bed, or from patient to family or staff, and then to hospitals and the public because of lax hygiene and poor staffing.  

These issues have also vexed long-term, acute-care hospitals, where patients typically stay for a month or less before going to a skilled nursing home or a different facility.

A recent inquiry by the New York State Department of Health found that some long-term hospitals grappling with C. auris were failing to take basic measures, such as using disposable gowns and latex gloves, or to post warning signs outside the rooms of infected patients. At one unnamed facility, it said, “hand sanitizers were completely absent.”

Officials at the 240-bed Palm Gardens did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Over the past year, the number of patients who were infected with or were carrying C. auris there grew to 38 from six, according to a nurse there and public health officials. The tally has now fallen into the high 20s after some patients died or moved elsewhere.

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The New York health department issued a statement in response to queries from The New York Times: “The Department of Health has made controlling the spread of C. auris a high priority and has conducted extensive training and education on infection control policies and procedures for Palm Gardens and other nursing home providers throughout this region. The health and well being of nursing home residents is our primary concern and we take complaints regarding quality of care very seriously.”

Scientific research on nursing homes and drug resistance is sparse, but some recent studies offer evidence of the problem. A study published in June in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases found that patients and residents in long-term care settings have alarmingly high rates of drug-resistant colonization, which means they carry the germs on their skin or in their bodies, usually without knowing it, and can pass them invisibly to staff members, relatives or other patients. Elderly or severely ill people with weakened immune systems who carry the germ are at high risk of becoming infected. (Health officials in New York state said 14 percent of those now infected started out carrying it and then developed symptoms).

The study, which focused on Southern California, found that 65 percent of nursing home residents in that region harbored a drug-resistant germ, as did 80 percent of residents of long-term acute-care hospitals, where their “status is frequently unknown to the facility.” By comparison, only 10 to 15 percent of hospital patients carried such germs, the study found.

Credit...Jeenah Moon for The New York Times
The phenomenon is global. A study published in 2017 found that elderly residents of long-term care facilities in Britain were four times as likely to be infected with drug-resistant urinary tract infections as elderly residents living at home. Soaring levels of resistance were found in long-term care facilities in Italy, a 2018 paper found. And a 2019 study found that long-term care facilities in Israel are “a major reservoir” of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE — a major family of drug-resistant germs — contributing to their “rapid regional dissemination.”

Experts said the problem is pronounced in the United States, given changing economics that push high-risk patients out of hospitals and into skilled nursing homes. The facilities are reimbursed at a higher rate to care for these patients, they said, providing an economic incentive for poorly staffed or equipped facilities to care for vulnerable patients.

C. auris, which is resistant to major antifungal medications, was first identified in 2009 in Japan and, as of July 31, had infected 796 people in the United States, largely in New York, Chicago and New Jersey, since its arrival here in 2015, according to the C.D.C. Another 1,540 people have been identified as carrying the germ on their skin or in their bodies without showing symptoms.

Credit...Hilary Swift for The New York Times
On Palm Gardens’ second floor, where Ms. Davila and other ventilated patients reside, signs posted outside nearly every room warn visitors and staff members to wear gloves, gowns and masks — a state requirement for those infected with C. auris.

But during two recent visits to Palm Gardens by a Times reporter, accompanying Ms. Davila’s husband as his guest, orderlies and nurses moved in and out of her room without the required protection.

“The nurses and janitors are just spreading this thing from room to room,” her husband, Anthony Hernandez, said on a visit in August, shortly after a nurse, who was wearing gloves but no mask or gown, poured liquid nourishment into his wife’s feeding tube. During a brief interview in the lobby, Pamela Delacuadra, the center’s director of nursing, said employees had initially struggled with the infection-control protocols required for C. auris.

“It was overwhelming at first but with help from the health department, we’ve gotten much better,” she said.

Ms. Davila’s medical records, reviewed by The Times, do not identify the specific date when she got C. auris. But a chart written by a Palm Gardens doctor in December 2018 includes a note listing her as a carrier of the fungus. She was put in isolation for C. auris patients, and her records subsequently referred to her as having the infection and taking antifungal medications for it.

Palm Gardens occupies a nondescript seven-story brick building in a working-class neighborhood in central Brooklyn. Magenta banners promote its dialysis center and adult day care services, as well as a “respiratory pavilion” for patients on mechanical life support.

Credit...Jeenah Moon for The New York Times
A high-level official from a local hospital that has seen a number of C. auris patients from nursing homes said Palm Gardens was a major source. He declined to be named because his employer had not authorized any comment.

Palm Gardens’s performance is poorly rated by the federal government; it received two stars, a below-average rating for staffing and overall care, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency that ranks nursing home care on a scale from one star to five. In 2018, the agency investigated the deaths of two ventilator patients at Palm Gardens, finding that employees had failed to turn their ventilators back on after performing mechanical checks. The patients died within minutes of each other, the report said.

C.M.S. declined to comment on Palm Gardens.

The ownership of Palm Gardens is controlled by someone identified as Shimon Lefkowitz, according to public filings.

Mr. Lefkowitz did not respond to efforts to reach him through Palm Gardens. Calls to several law firms that represent Palm Gardens in lawsuits were not returned.

Not all Palm Gardens residents with C. auris contracted the germ there, and it is not clear how many did. One patient who died was infected at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, according to the man’s family.

Credit...Jeenah Moon for The New York Times
Skilled nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been playing an increasingly important role in caring for seriously ill patients who used to stay longer in hospitals.

Advances in medical technology have made it possible to prolong the lives of desperately ill patients, while changes in Medicare reimbursement rates created a financial incentive for the expansion of such facilities, said Neale Mahoney, an economist at the University of Chicago who studies the industry’s growth. There are now about 400 long-term care hospitals across the country, up from about 40 in the early 1980s, he said.

Since 2012, the number of skilled nursing homes with ventilator units rose to 436 from 367 — a significant jump but still a fraction of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes — according to C.M.S.

“Ventilator units are the poster child, the best example of a place that has challenges,” said Dr. Alexander Kallen, an outbreak expert at the C.D.C.
The federal government reimburses facilities for ventilator patients at significantly higher rates than for other patients, according to C.M.S. Ventilated patients can bring in $531 a day compared to $200 for a standard patient. That’s about $16,000 a month compared to $6,000.

The reimbursement rates reflect the significant care required for vulnerable patients, and the cost of equipment.

C.M.S. contends the majority of skilled nursing homes do well with staffing and overall care. Yet roughly 1,400 nursing homes received a one-star rating for staffing in 2018 from the agency.

“It is impossible for them to do a good job with the way their staffing is,” said Dr. Mary Hayden, a professor at Rush Medical College who studies the rise of drug-resistant infections in health care, adding of the challenges of curbing drug-resistant infection: “The way they’re set up, they can’t do it.”

Credit...Jeenah Moon for The New York Times
Ms. Davila carried C. auris with her on her journey through the health care system.

In early August, after a routine blood test found her white cell count plummeting, she was taken by ambulance to Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn for a blood transfusion. Doctors discovered an infection and put her on two different antibiotics. Heavy use of antibiotics, while often necessary, can kill off the nonresistant infections and allow resistant ones to thrive.

Her condition stabilized after two weeks and she returned to Palm Gardens. It was one of at least a dozen trips she had taken to the hospital since she first arrived at Palm Gardens.

Her sharp decline began in 2017 after pain from a suspected hernia sent her to the hospital. A lifelong smoker, Ms. Davila had emphysema, which led to a litany of complications and infections, according to a review of her medical records.
Now she spends her days frozen in bed, serenaded by a Latin music radio station and the mechanical whir of her respirator.

Mr. Hernandez doubts his wife will recover. “If I can take her home to die that would be a blessing,” he said.

He pulled the blanket higher, turned up the radio and told his wife he loved her. Momentarily alert, she fixed her eyes on his and then mouthed: “I love you, too.”

Benjamin Ryan contributed reporting.
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Nursing Homes Are a Breeding Ground for a Fatal Fungus

Friday, February 28, 2020

Lansing-area judge to lead statewide court office

Judge Tom Boyd has been a District Court judge in Ingham County since 2005. (Source: WILX)
LANSING, Mich. (AP) A Lansing-area judge who has been outspoken about how Michigan's local courts are financed is resigning to become administrator of the state court system.

Tom Boyd has been a District Court judge in Ingham County since 2005. The Michigan Supreme Court describes Boyd as “one of the state’s most active judges in working to improve the legal system and the administration of justice.”

Boyd will lead the State Court Administrative Office.

Milt Mack is becoming administrator emeritus and will focus on mental health issues in the justice system.

Full Article & Source:
Lansing-area judge to lead statewide court office

Nursing home cited for death, sexual abuse

Photo by Clark Kauffman/Iowa Capital Dispatch The Rowley Memorial Masonic Home in Perry was fined more than $100,000 last year due to numerous patient-care violations.
A Dallas County nursing home that cut staffing to compensate for financial losses is on a federal watch list after inspectors cited the home for contributing to a resident death, hiring an unlicensed caregiver, failing to protect residents from sexual abuse and allowing a kitchen worker to supervise its dementia ward.

Financial troubles at the Rowley Memorial Masonic Home in Perry have been so severe in recent years the home was unable to buy bottled oxygen for the elderly residents who needed it simply to breathe, according to state records.

The home is now on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Special Focus Facilities list. The national list was created to identify those homes that have an established pattern of numerous, serious violations related to resident care. The home is currently operating on a conditional license from the state.

State records indicate the facility, which is home to roughly 40 older Iowans, has been struggling financially for at least five years. In 2018, the trust that operates the home posted a net loss of $1.3 million and was doing business with less than 45 days’ cash on hand. At the time, the facility’s auditors said the trust hoped to make up for those losses in part by adjusting “staffing ratios to be as cost effective as possible while maintaining quality care.”

That same year, the number of quality-of-care violations cited by state regulators more than tripled, from six in 2017 to 22 in 2018. Over the next two years, the home was repeatedly written up for insufficient staff, although no state fines were imposed.

In 2019, violations at the home increased again, totaling 36 in number. State inspectors could have fined the Perry home at least $25,000 for those violations. The state fines were suspended, however, so that federal officials could determine what fines, if any, should be imposed.

Dean Lerner, who served as director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals under Democratic Gov. Chet Culver, said the state is partly to blame for resident-care issues such as those at Rowley.

“Leadership at the facility abdicates their care responsibilities to residents, and leadership at the state abdicates their oversight responsibilities,” he said. “The regulations that Iowa’s Republican administration loves to hate are crucial to protect the health, safety, welfare and rights of residents.”

John Hale, an advocate for older Iowans, said the residents of Iowa care facilities deserve better.

“The typical Iowan who reads about the failings of this nursing facility would shake their head in sadness and disgust,” he said. “So what should be done? Doing more inspections, citing more violations, levying more fines, putting a facility on a watch list, etcetera, may not be enough. If the unacceptable level of care cited in past years continues, the state and federal government should be looking at stronger actions that could include stepping in and obtaining a change in ownership or management of the facility.

The Rowley Memorial Masonic Home in Perry, Iowa, is now on a federal watch list due to numerous, serious violations of resident-care standards. (Photo by Clark Kauffman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The administrator of the Rowley Memorial Masonic Home declined to speak to a reporter Tuesday, and referred all questions to a corporate office, which he declined to identify.

The home is owned by the Herman L. Rowley Memorial Trust and is part of the Rowley Masonic Community complex, which includes assisted living units and independent living apartments. The facility is run by Health Dimensions Group, a Minnesota company that manages nursing homes in Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois and other states.

In May 2019, the home was cited for failing to have on hand any portable liquid oxygen tanks for the residents who had been prescribed continuous oxygen. Inspectors determined the facility’s oxygen-tank supplier had stopped making deliveries of oxygen due to non-payment of past-due bills.

The inspectors then discovered there were 31 vendors – including suppliers of medical equipment – that were owed almost $600,000 by the Rowley Memorial Masonic Home. Seven vendors that provided essential resident-care services told inspectors they would no longer do business with the home. In addition to that, the facility was $600,000 behind on its mortgage, inspectors said.

At the time, the facility was also cited for a 16% medication-error rate. One resident had to be taken by ambulance to a hospital after being found unresponsive in bed after a staff-induced drug overdose.

Inspectors also cited the home for failing to have a functional call-light system that would allow residents to summon the staff for assistance. Residents reported soiling themselves as they waited 40 minutes for someone to come to their aid. An audit of the call-light system revealed 472 instances, over a seven-week period, in which residents waited 15 minutes or more for a response.

In the wake of that inspection, federal officials fined the home more than $106,000.

The Rowley Memorial Masonic Home is now operating on a conditional license issued by the state. (Photo by Clark Kauffman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Two months later, in July 2019, inspectors returned to the home and cited it for failing to protect a male resident of the home’s dementia unit from sexual abuse at the hands of another male resident. In one instance, a worker saw the alleged perpetrator pin the victim against the wall and put his hand in the other man’s pants. The facility was also cited for medication errors, insufficient staff, and inadequate training for the staff. Residents were waiting up to 62 minutes for a response to their call lights, inspectors alleged.

In October 2019, inspectors returned to the home and issued a 111-page report detailing 21 additional violations, including failure to complete background checks on workers; failure to report physical altercations among the residents; medication errors; improper use of psychotropic drugs; and employing as a nurse aide an individual who had failed the skills test three times and wasn’t state certified as required by law.

The home was also cited for having insufficient bedside medical equipment for a tracheostomy patient who was found in bed, not breathing, three days after admission. With no equipment readily available to suction the resident’s airway, a nurse aide tried to breathe air into the man’s lungs using only her mouth on the surgical hole in his neck. The man was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died two hours later.

The home’s nurse manager and director of operations each told inspectors the man should never have been admitted to the home given the level of skilled care he required.

On at least nine occasions in the month leading up to the October inspection, the only person working a shift in the home’s dementia unit was a kitchen worker who told inspectors he had been “sitting shifts” in the nursing department for about two months, although he had no medical certification of any kind. He told inspectors that while he couldn’t legally provide resident care, he supervised the unit and could shut off residents’ call lights and inform them someone else would eventually come to assist them.

Other workers told inspectors the facility was often short-staffed and residents were falling and being injured as a result. They acknowledged their practice was to answer call lights by shutting them off with a promise to return later and provide whatever assistance the residents needed.

Even with state inspectors on site, there were times when the dementia unit was either entirely unstaffed or had only one nurse aide present. An inspector observed one resident near a doorway repeatedly yelling, “Help me,” with no workers responding.

Additional state inspections were conducted at the home in November, December and January, but the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals has yet to publish the findings from those inspections on its web site.

In November, the agency suspended all Medicaid and Medicare payments for new admissions to the home.

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home cited for death, sexual abuse

Southern Utah innkeeper accused of bilking elderly guest of $50,000

(Photo courtesy of Sevier County Jail) Edward Alan Bahr
By Brian Maffly

A Hanksville innkeeper is in custody, facing dozens of charges for allegedly exploiting an elderly long-term guest who had entrusted him with her money.

Authorities say a search of the Hanksville Inn on Saturday also yielded evidence that Edward Alan Bahr illegally kept firearms and methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

Wayne County sheriff’s deputies executed a warrant in search of financial records and also found 8 grams of methamphetamine, scales, drug paraphernalia, a rifle, and ammunition of various calibers, according to Sheriff Dan Jensen. As a convicted felon, Bahr is not permitted to possess firearms.
The Hanksville Inn is just one of two hotels in the southern Utah town surrounded with such scenic wonders as Horseshoe Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Henry Mountains, Capitol Reef National Park, Factory Butte and Goblin Valley State Park. Located on State Road 24, Hanksville is about the only town on the 105-mile stretch between Green River and Torrey.

The town’s namesake inn is the subject of scathing reviews posted online by numerous customers unhappy with the sloppy condition of the motel and with management’s insistence on charging them full fare after canceling reservations. The motel’s website was down Tuesday and no one answered the phone.

Bahr’s alleged victim had moved to Hanksville two years ago after selling a home in Arizona, the sheriff said. She took up residence in the Hanksville Inn and put the proceeds of the home sale in a Loa bank. Last July, Bahr and the victim opened a joint checking account attached to the victim’s money, which was to be used for the victim’s needs, according to charging documents filed Tuesday in 6th District Court.

Over the next few months, Bahr, who had obtained power of attorney, siphoned about $50,000 from the account through a number of withdrawals the woman never authorized, according to Jensen.

“He had been traveling around on her dime,” the sheriff said.

The matter came to the sheriff’s attention in October, when bank staff became suspicious of Bahr’s handling of the account and reported it. Adult Protective Services became involved and helped relocate the woman to a safer residence.

Based on a report by a caseworker, sheriff’s investigators searched the bank’s records in January and uncovered “a pattern of the suspect transferring large amounts from the victim’s accounts and showed numerous withdrawals from ATM machines, car rentals, vacations, and large transfers [to] the suspect’s personal and business accounts.”

After several attempts by investigators to contact the victim, she spoke with sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Burr on Friday.

“The suspect had agreed to be her guardian and caretaker, but [she] had never given him permission to use her money for any other purpose than her care and medical costs,” states an affidavit Burr prepared in support of 33 counts filed against Bahr. 

“When she confronted him about about his use of her money, he threatened to have her placed in a care center,” Burr’s affidavit states. “She states her fear of the suspect kept her from being willing to speak with me until recently and after she had moved out of the Hanksville Inn.”

She knew he had weapons and he had “intimated to her that he could use them if he felt threatened.”

At a bail hearing Tuesday, Judge Mark McIff ordered bail set at $200,000. Bahr remains in the Sevier County jail awaiting arraignment.

Full Article & Source:
Southern Utah innkeeper accused of bilking elderly guest of $50,000

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Minnesota Protecting the Professional Predators in Guardianship

There is no Constitutional provision for negating of law into unlawful or illegal statutes.

The only possible way to rectify this assault on the elderly and other vulnerable men and women who have been declared to have suffered a civil death at the hands of these civil tribunals, is to abolish them altogether.

The elderly in Minnesota, as they are across the country, have been, and are, being targeted for exploitation by professional, for-profit guardians. Guardianship has been described as the fastest growing cottage industry in the country. The trafficking of the elderly through the probate system has allowed the theft of estates and the accompanying isolation and abuse of the targeted individual. As a result, the greatest transfer of wealth in this country, is not from the rich to the poor, but rather, from the elderly to professional predators who game this system for profit. It is aledged that 5-10 billion is stolen annually from the elderly by these predators. Generational wealth in the form of inheritance is being stolen from intended heirs.

Its no Different in Minnesota

Minnesota government at all levels has allowed a predatory, for profit system to flourish and, has even colluded with those who profit from the trafficking through a civil tribunal system in order to facilitate the kidnapping, isolation and financial exploitation of the elderly, the disabled and other vulnerable men and women. Allegedly, many of our legislators are connected through business associations to the most virulent of these predators. The business of trafficking the elderly for profit has become so lucrative that large fiduciary corporations who profit from this activity have sprung up across the state.

Probate “courts” are civil tribunals; they are not courts of law, nor are they courts of record. Probate was to become active only upon presentation of the death certificate, and then only to determine if the estate was testate or intestate. (With a will, or without one) The only duty of probate was to determine the distribution of assets to the appropriate heirs. The probate examiner was to have only one clear purpose; fact finding. This was extended to include guardianship and conservator ship of the living man or woman. As it is used today, either of these acts against the living man or woman, causes the civil death of that man or woman. The granting of guardianship petitions is the de facto death certificate. 

Sec. 11. Probate jurisdiction.

Original jurisdiction in law and equity for the administration of the estates of deceased persons and all guardianship and incompetency proceedings, including jurisdiction over the administration of trust estates and for the determination of taxes contingent upon death, shall be provided by law.

Probate jurisdiction has coupled the common law courts, with the equity tribunals. We question how these pseudo “courts” which operate under statute, became combined with the judicial branch which deals only with law. 

The so-called probate “judges” are in fact, only ministerial clerks or, hearing examiners. These individuals are not judges of the law, but merely those who operate under statute, code and regulations. Statute, codes, and regulations are always erected to bypass the common law and state and federal constitutions that would otherwise protect the targeted individual from the predators operating in and with the tribunal. 

These tribunals do not follow the rules of evidence nor the code of civil procedure required in an actual court of law. While due process is said to be followed, it seldom is. Hearings are held without notice to the victim or by extension, family. Ex parte communications between the attorney’s, guardians and the hearing examiner are common-place. 

With these things in mind, we ask that the State Constitution Article IV Section 11 Probate Jurisdiction, be returned to the courts of common law.
What must change immediately are these things:

Under whatever title the probate examiner is presenting him/her self, they MUST not:
  • Strip the man or woman of their identity or,
  • Force the estate to pay the expenses, fees or other charges as a result of being targeted for exploitation by the very individuals or business entities initiating the petitions for guardianship who also intend to profit personally and directly from that guardianship.
  • MUST not discard pre-standing legal instruments, including but not limited to,
  • Durable Powers of Attorney (DPA)
  • Medical powers of attorney (MPA),
  • The provisions in estate plans MUST be honored and MUST not be discarded or interfered with by the tribunal, the anticipated guardian or their attorney’s.
  • MUST not isolate the targeted man or woman under any circumstances
  • MUST not use armed guards, facility staff or other means of intimidating and threatening family and friends who attempt to visit.
  • MUST not minimize visitation in order to harass or intimidate family and friends.
Today, probate has become the vehicle for legalized theft of assets and the civil deaths of those targeted. Operating under statutes which can be easily manipulated, the hearing examiner facilitates the identity theft, the theft of assets and the assaults on families and friends of the victim. 

Probate tribunals are described as “courts of equity”. Equity “courts” are the old English Chancery courts run by the church and operated solely for profit. 

A second option as a separate bill

One option would be to abolish these probate “courts” and return the cases of living men and women who are alleged to need a guardian or conservator, to actual courts of law. Under the Minnesota Constitution 




Sec. 11. Probate jurisdiction.

Original jurisdiction in law and equity for the administration of the estates of deceased persons and all guardianship and incompetency proceedings, including jurisdiction over the administration of trust estates and for the determination of taxes contingent upon death, shall be provided by law.

There is no Constitutional provision for negating of law into unlawful or illegal statutes.

The only possible way to rectify this assault on the elderly and other vulnerable men and women who have been declared to have suffered a civil death at the hands of these civil tribunals, is to abolish them altogether. 

Sec. 12. Abolition of probate court; status of judges.

If the probate court is abolished by law, judges of that court who are learned in the law shall become judges of the court that assumes jurisdiction of matters described in section 11.

As it is, hearing examiners in these civil tribunals are not required to have any training in the law.


Probate tribunals were were created to avoid courts of law for specific reasons. It allows the stripping of identity, theft of assets, and the human rights violations that are well known and documented. That any judicial system would create, allow or condone forcing the intended victim to finance the actions brought against them is most likely one of the most insidious portions of this predatory system. 

The targeted individual has committed no crime; there are no injuries to others or to property. In most cases, the predator guardian cannot identify the targeted victim, as they have never actually seen them. What they have seen is a list of assets they intend to seize to profit themselves.

In the tribunal, the predator and their accompanying attorney(s) recite a laundry list of supposed dangers to the victim. They are never asked for, nor do they produce any evidence to substantiate their claims. 

As these are not courts of record, the family and/or friends are not allowed to counter these claims. They are not allowed to speak or to present evidence to the hearing examiner which would refute the claims of the predators. If any record of the proceedings is ever produced it reads as if no one objected. 

The victim is seldom allowed to attend the petitioning hearing, but when those rare occasions do occur, most are intentionally drugged beforehand to make them appear to be totally demented. The examiner is fully aware that this is what has happened.

To make matters worse, the taxable profits gained by the guardian from the stolen estate are also paid by the estate. 

Our first goal is to abolish the probate tribunals control over the living man or woman. If you are intent on gifting yourself with the results of someone elses lifes work and assets, do it in a court of law. Prove your case. Reveal why you have targeted this individual and show your verifiable, documented evidence in front of a jury. A trial by an impaneled jury would end many of these cases before they ever got started.

Full Article & Source:
Minnesota Protecting the Professional Predators in Guardianship

I-TEAM: Nursing home staff want to learn how to investigate elderly abuse like law enforcement

By Liz Owens

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Nursing home staff are legally responsible for investigating claims of abuse and neglect.

However, they're not trained law enforcement officers and the federal government found nationwide many abuse and neglect claims are not investigated inside nursing homes.

Sixty local nursing home employees so far want help to learn how to spot and investigate neglect in their facility.

The I-Team has spent the last 10 months exposing allegations of neglect and abuse inside area nursing homes and a system which allows it to go unnoticed.

Nursing home staff are required by law to report potential abuse to state and federal agencies, but the Office of Inspector General found facilities don't always report it.

There's a lot of motivation for nursing homes not to report allegations of abuse and neglect.

In October, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began displaying a consumer alert icon next to nursing homes that have been cited for incidents of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Who is going to put their loved one in a home with an icon next to it?

To make matters worse in Georgia, coroners aren't even notified of deaths inside nursing homes.

"If someone dies in a nursing home, there is no secondary there is no checks and balances -- for the lack of a better word -- to make sure no foul play has occurred from all walks of life,” District Attorney Natalie Paine said.

Paine says local awareness is growing.

"It's a positive step this was a long time coming,” Paine said.

That awareness is also growing among nursing home staff, thanks to our reporting, Paine said.

It's a first. Nursing home administrators have called Paine’s office asking for help. They want to learn how to investigate like law enforcement.

"Basically, the training they are requesting is interview techniques -- also what to look for with prospective physical abuse or financial abuse,” Paine said.

Paine’s office will hold a first of its kind forensic training seminar for nursing home employees this spring.

“If they are going to self-investigate they need to be on par with what we would expect them to be,” Paine said.

"Anytime we can train people to do things better or spot abuse, obviously the main goal here is to protect and keep them safe, so this obviously offers us an opportunity to do that."

Full Article & Source:
I-TEAM: Nursing home staff want to learn how to investigate elderly abuse like law enforcement

Tennessee 8th-grader challenges lawmakers to spend a day in wheelchairs

Alex Johnson, in black, talks with Tennessee lawmakers who participated in his "Spend a Day in My Wheels" challenge.
Alex Johnson has been in a wheelchair since he was a little boy, but says it's still hard to explain all the challenges he faces every day.

The Tennessee eighth-grader convinced a group of state lawmakers to spend a day in wheelchairs earlier this month, so they could experience those challenges for themselves.
"I could talk to you for hours and hours about the difficulties people in wheelchairs face on a daily basis," Johnson said in a speech to lawmakers, CNN affiliate WSMV reported. "Until you actually sit in a chair, you'll never fully understand."
The 14-year-old actually came up for the idea for the "Spend a Day in My Wheels" challenge when he was in the fifth grade, to help his classmates understand things from his perspective, according to a news release from the Tennessee House GOP. He attends Friendship Christian School in Lebanon, Tennessee.
Johnson has a form of skeletal dysplasia, which affects the growth of bones and cartilage, and he told WSMV that he was able to walk when he was little, but has used a wheelchair since the second grade.
State Rep. Clark Boyd, who represents Lebanon, helped organize the bipartisan event. 
He told WSMV that he didn't have any previous experience with wheelchairs.
"Even in a building that is handicap accessible, still you bump into doors. You bump into walls. Some of the doors become very heavy for someone in a wheelchair. Opening a refrigerator door, doors seem to be a pretty big challenge," he told WSMV.
The Permobil Foundation supplied the wheelchairs, which the lawmakers used to attend meetings, work at their desks and do other regular activities.
Boyd said in a statement that the experience was eye-opening and that he had no idea how frustrating it would be to get around in a wheelchair.
Johnson said he hopes the experience will inspire the lawmakers to help make the world more accessible.
"They can influence things," he told WSMV. "They can help people achieve more independence."

Full Article & Source:
Tennessee 8th-grader challenges lawmakers to spend a day in wheelchairs

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Nursing home where woman was 'eaten alive' by mites receives over $8M in taxpayer money

LAFAYETTE, Ga. — A Georgia nursing home once criticized for allowing an elderly woman to die from a scabies infestation is back in the spotlight. The latest complaints come from a widower, whose wife lived at the facility, and a former nursing home manager.

Frances Palmer moved into Shepherd Hills Nursing Home in LaFayette, Georgia in the summer of 2018. In the time she lived there, her husband Jim, documented injuries related to three different falls reported to him by staff.

After her second fall this past September, he filed an incident report with the LaFayette Police Department alleging that staff abused her. The police department said it forwarded the case to Adult Protective Services, a part of the Division of Aging Services. A spokesperson of the agency declined to confirm it received the report, but said the state typically forwards nursing home related complaints to another agency – the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH).

After the fall, the 70-year-old said he then requested padding around his wife’s bed.

“I asked them to put one on the floor and they said no, she might trip over it. And I said if she trips over it, at least she is gonna land on something soft,” Palmer said.

Eleven days later, Frances fell again.

“Her face was swelled up, black eyes. She was cut across her nose. She was just black and blue,” Palmer recalled.

Hospital records show she suffered fractured bones in her face and bleeding in her brain. Doctors told Palmer the damage was irreversible.

“I actually feel like I killed her by putting her in that place,” said Palmer. Frances was 75-years-old when she died.

While state inspectors have not determined if Shepherd Hill played a role in Frances’ death, the facility has a long history of alleged neglect.


In 2015, 93-year-old Rebecca Zeni died from a scabies infestation while living there. After reviewing her autopsy, forensic pathologist Dr. Kris Sperry estimates millions of mites were living inside Zeni at the time of her death.

“This is one of the most horrendous things I’ve ever seen in my career as a forensic pathologist,” said Sperry in an interview with 11Alive's investigative team, The Reveal, back in 2018.

Since Zini’s death, inspectors with the DCH have cited the nursing facility four years in a row for multiple violations. That includes violations for medication errors in 2016; inaccurate patient records in 2017; a hole found in the ceiling of a room in 2018 and failing to provide a safe and clean environment in 2019.

The Reveal has confirmed the state is currently investigating 2019 neglect allegations related to a current resident who lives at Shepherd Hills. His name is Andy Coleman.

Coleman's sister, the nursing home’s former nursing director, filed the complaint with the state. Pictures provided to The Reveal show a bruise on his forehead and black eyes. The family says the injuries are a result of the staff allegedly not following fall prevention protocols.

READ | DCH inspection reports for Shepherd Hill at the bottom of this story

During roughly the same time period, the LaFayette Police Department has responded to the nursing home at least 57 times. Incident records show the allegations range from theft involving staff, simple battery between residents and unaccounted for patients.


The Reveal reached out to Pruitt Health for an interview with Neil Pruitt, the CEO and chairperson. The public relations firm, Edelman, contacted us back to say they would facilitate the interview request.

After a few weeks they emailed us back to say "Pruitt Health has declined the interview opportunity and asked us to let you know that they do not have information or comment to share at this time,” read Edelman's email.

A few weeks later, we took advantage of the opportunity to talk with Pruitt in person at a public meeting. The CEO is also a board member on the Georgia Board of Regents.

Before the board’s February meeting started, The Reveal Investigator Andy Pierrotti asked Pruitt multiple times if he would like to respond to the state violation.

“We have no comment. We don’t respond to this type of journalism,” said Mr. Pruitt, as he walked away.


The Reveal provided our findings to Rep. Steve Tarvin. The lawmaker represents the district where Shepherd Hills is located.

“I haven’t talked to anyone officially about those complaints, but it’s disturbing to see those things and you hear and read about them, but I wasn’t aware of anything at Shepherd Hills, this kind of problem,” said Tarvin.

The long-time Chickamauga lawmaker said he forwarded The Reveal’s findings to the DCH to investigate.

While state inspectors were citing the facility year after year, state records show its owner, Pruitt Health, received Georgia taxpayer money.

From 2018 to 2019, DCH documents obtained from a public records request, show the company received $8.1 million in Medicaid reimbursements from the Shepherd Hills facility alone.

The same records request shows Pruitt Health received more than $453 million dollars in Medicaid reimbursements from its 56 Georgia facilities during the same time period.

Pruitt Health is the largest nursing home provider in the state.

When asked if Pruitt deserved taxpayer money, Rep. Tarvin said he’s unsure without knowing more from DCH.

“All I can tell you is that I’ve known three or four residents and the families have been perfectly happy with it. I would just have to look into to see what has gone on for sure,” explained Tarvin.

The Reveal posed the same question to Pruitt. “No comment. I don’t know how else to explain that to you,” said the CEO.



Full Article & Source:
Nursing home where woman was 'eaten alive' by mites receives over $8M in taxpayer money

Michigan among top states with best elder-abuse protections

By Gina Joseph

Late last July, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office announced charges against a 23-year-old Clinton Township woman as part of a statewide listening tour and crackdown on elder abuse.

The woman was charged with one count of 4th-degree vulnerable adult abuse for neglecting to follow the care plan for an 89-year-old resident at a Bloomfield Hills-based nursing home by not assisting her into a wheelchair, resulting in a fall and injuries.

She later pleaded no contest to the charges and was fined and placed on probation six months.

At that time, it was the ninth case of elder abuse brought by the attorney general’s office that year.

Since then, the attorney general’s office has been pushing for a package of 18 bills to strengthen Michigan laws against elder abuse.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Scott Teter, who is chief of the financial crimes division for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and leads and state’s Elder Abuse Task Force.

Every Day Occurrence

Abuse happens every day and takes many forms but vulnerable older Americans are among the easiest targets for this kind of misconduct, especially those who are women, have disabilities and rely on others for care.

Seniors are very trusting, too.

Dennis Burgio of Macomb lost his entire savings because a close friend took advantage of their relationship.

"He was like the son I never had," Burgio said, in a news release from the state's Attorney General's Office. Last March, Burgio joined Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, several Supreme Court justices and state legislators in announcing the formation of the Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force.
"I trusted him unconditionally," Burgio said, of his friend. "We loved him."

As a result, Burgio was forced to postpone his retirement for at least five years.

"I am fortunate," he said. "By the grace of God I can continue to work to rebuild some of my savings. It is more difficult because my wife has health issues. However, our family is supportive and able to help us."

According to Nessel, more than 73,000 older adults in Michigan are victims of elder abuse annually, although that number has increased since 2019, to nearly 100,000.

"They experience physical abuse, financial exploitation, emotional abuse, or neglect. The symptoms and treatment of abuse against our most senior population are complex and demand a concerted effort by this state to tackle what is an often unrecognized and unreported social problem," Nessel said.

"That's why we have brought together dozens of different organizations to work collectively and collaboratively to tackle the challenge," she added.

Defining Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a general term referring to several types of harm inflicted on older or vulnerable adults who are unable to protect themselves due to a mental or physical impairment or advanced age.

Perpetrators can include children, other family members, spouses, caregivers, and staff at nursing homes, assisted living, and other facilities.

Types of elder abuse include: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, confinement, passive neglect, willful deprivation and financial exploitation.

"Each year, approximately 1 in 10 Americans, age 65 and over experience some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year," according to the National Council on Aging (NCA). "One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities."

A snapshot of numbers compiled by county by Adult Protective Services, a part of the Michigan Health and Human Services Department, shows those reported.

For Fiscal 2019, Adult Protective Services received 49,483 referrals across Michigan of which 9,319 cases were investigated. The agency found 739 cases of physical abuse, 680 cases of emotional abuse, 2,496 cases of neglect, and 1,301 cases of financial exploitation.

In Oakland County, Adult Protective Services counted 661 cases of abuse including 54 cases of physical abuse, 39 cases of emotional abuse, 268 cases of neglect, and 96 cases of financial exploitation.

In Macomb County, Adult Protective Services counted 519 cases of abuse of all kinds, including 54 cases of physical abuse, 33 cases of emotional abuse, 131 cases of neglect, and 72 cases of financial exploitation.

Proactive Approach

Elder abuse is a problem that is likely to grow with America's increasingly aging nation.

The United States Census Bureau expects the nation's elderly population to grow from 43.1 million to 85.7 million in 2050, much to the credit of Baby Boomers, who began turning 65 in 2011.

Most states recognize the problem but only some are reacting to it.

Fortunately, Michigan is ranked among the top five states working to strengthen elder abuse protections, both in the Legislature and through an attorney general push for enforcement when incidents are discovered.

Its ranking came from a study by, which compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 16 key metrics related to elder abuse.

The data set ranged from share of elder-abuse, gross-neglect and exploitation complaints to presence of working groups and financial elder-abuse laws. Each metric was scored on a 100-point scale, with 100 representing the best protection against elder abuse. Each state's weighted average across all metrics was then used to determine an overall score and the rank-order for states.

The top states were: Massachusetts (score of 59.91), followed by Wisconsin (58.38), Rhode Island (56.15), Michigan (55.37) and Iowa (54.34).

New Jersey (28.05) was ranked among the states having the worst protection against elder abuse followed by South Carolina (29.35), California (29.92), Montana (32.46) and Nevada (35.86).

Other elder-abuse protection ranks for Michigan, one being the best and 25 being average:

• 8th - Elder-abuse, gross-neglect and exploitation complaints
• 14th - Total expenditures on elder-abuse prevention
• 18th - Nursing-homes quality
• 3rd - Total expenditures on legal-assistance development
• 1st - Financial elderly-abuse laws

Elder Laws

The rankings do not surprise attorney Patrick Simasko of Simasko Law, and professor of business law at Oakland University, and elder law at Cooley Law School.

He has spent more than 20 years helping older Michiganders plan for their future, receive the financial and medical benefits available to them and represent their interests in court.

"It's not just our laws but the whole awareness of it, and how they are educating our police departments and adult protective services," Simasko said.

Michigan's task force has more than 30 different organizations including law enforcement, state agencies, the Michigan House, Senate and Congressional delegation, and advocacy groups committed to stopping elder abuse.

Since its launch, Michigan's attorney general has filed nine elder abuse cases in several counties, including Oakland and Macomb, and created the first-ever statewide incident report for vulnerable adult abuse.

The Vulnerable Adult Incident Report will help law enforcement officers, and prosecutors identify report and prosecute instances of elder and vulnerable adult abuse.

Four members of the task force and Michigan's legislature including Republican chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Sen. Peter Lucido and Rep. Graham Filler along with Democratic legislators Paul Wojno and Rep. Brian Elder have also identified laws that need to be strengthened or introduced.

Among the laws in a package awaiting approval is House Bill 5131, which is expected to be a real game changer, in its ability to protect the financial assets of seniors and vulnerable adults. If passed, it will allow broker-dealers and investment advisors to report suspected cases of financial exploitation.

"If their client is being financially exploited, they absolutely should be allowed to report it," said Simasko, who has represented many family members who have reported exploitation of a senior, by another relative or caregiver.


Michigan residents are urged to report any signs or concerns about elder abuse to the attorney general's office, which has established an elder abuse hotline for anonymous tips: 855-444-3911 or online at

Full Article & Source:
Michigan among top states with best elder-abuse protections