Friday, December 24, 2021

Elderly Advice on Modern Life

Can you imagine what life was like before smartphones and the internet? Or what old people think of tinder and selfies? Well, I decided to find out. I met with residents of a retirement community to learn more about their way of life, and if their values differ from ours in this modern digital world.

In Loving Memory of George Turk, 1924 - 2021

Source: YouTube

57 Years Apart - A Boy And a Man Talk About Life

Act normal, don’t be silly, don’t bully lots of people' ... We brought together two people with a very large gap of 57 years between them and got them to ask each other questions about life and growing up.

Our aim was to see if people from opposing stages of their lives could learn from each other.

Source: YouTube

Elderly Couple Become TikTok Stars With Adorable Dancing Videos

An adorable elderly couple with a combined age of 170 have become unlikely TikTok sensations after their daughter began filming them dancing to cheer them up during lockdown.

 Source: YouTube

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Pa. guardian gets probation for treating girl like ‘a prisoner of war’

By John Beauge

LEWISBURG – A Union County woman who a prosecutor accused of treating a young girl with mental issues like a dog has been placed on probation with restrictive conditions.

Judge Michael T. Hudock on Tuesday prefaced his sentencing of Melissa Lin Keiser, 39, of New Columbia, by saying people on both sides would be angry with it.

Keister was found guilty in September of endangering the welfare of a child by starving the girl and making her sleep on a wooden floor in her underwear.

Union County District Attorney D. Peter Johnson argued for a state prison sentence while defense attorney Peter T. Campana sought probation or a finding of guilt without further penalty.

Campana claimed Keiser thought she was properly caring for the young girl and did not think the way she treated her was criminal.

Johnson accused Keister of treating the girl “as a prisoner of war,” seeking to control her every movement.

It is time for her to learn what it is like to be under someone’s control, he said, advocating jail time.

The victim told an interviewer for the preparation of a presentence report that she wanted Keister to go to prison, Hudock noted.

Because the victim was under the supervision of Children and Youth, Hudock asked without expecting an answer where were the supervisors’ supervisors.

The judge acknowledged it was a serious offense but said neither probation nor a lengthy prison sentence was appropriate.

He placed Keister on three years’ probation, the first four months of which she will be confined to home except for a few exceptions. She also must complete 250 hours of community service within nine months.

The sentence is not effective until Jan. 3 because the judge said no GPS device is available until then.

Johnson said he was disappointed with the sentence. He had argued anything less than a prison sentence would depreciate the nature of crime. He cited the frailty of the victim and the emotional harm she suffered.

Keister had testified on her own behalf at trial, denying that she mistreated the girl for which she obtained guardianship after she took her into her home in 2013 because of concerns the mother was not providing proper care.

She acknowledged forcing the girl to sleep in a square taped to the bedroom’s hardwood floor sometimes without blankets but said it was done for safety reasons because she had tried to jump out a window.

She denied the starving allegation, claiming she withheld food only when the girl gorged on something close to a meal.

Keister’s six children, whom she homeschooled, also lived in the house.

Evidence was presented that the girl gained 28 pounds and grew 2 inches within six months after being removed from home in 2018.

The girl attended the three-day trial but did not testify because Hudock found her to be incompetent.

Keister had said after being found guilty she planned an appeal, but she gave no indication in court if that still was the case given the sentence.

Campana noted the conviction will prevent her from being approved to homeschool her children.

Full Article & Source:

Olmsted County residents scammed out of nearly $500,000

The Olmsted County Sheriff's Office reported that seven county residents were scammed out of nearly half a million dollars within the last month.


By Emily Cutts

The Olmsted County Sheriff's Office is urging people to be vigilant after seven elderly residents were scammed out of more than $475,000.

Within the last month, the sheriff's office has received several reports of elderly people being scammed out of large amounts of money — the largest scam resulting in the loss of $350,000, according to a news release from Lt. Lee Rossman.

"The Sheriff’s Office and Olmsted County Adult Protection would like to remind those with elderly family members or friends to watch how they are managing their money. Not only those who are vulnerable adults but others living alone, lonely or depressed can fall for the smooth conversation of a con man," Rossman wrote in a news release. "Many victims have lost their life savings or go into deep debt after losing money to these criminals."

A Byron man was scammed out of $350,000 after meeting a Danish woman on The woman told the man she owned a hotel in Africa and needed money to get it back into working order. The man sent her money in 15 transactions. The scam was reported by the man's financial institution.

A Stewartville-area woman lost $9,000 to a man she met on a "hangout" app. The man said he was trying to leave the United Kingdom but couldn't.

A Rochester woman lost $20,000 and had another $20,000 held up by Fed Ex "after she allowed two men to access her computer and bank account," according to the news release.

A Stewartville woman nearly lost $155,000 in a Publisher’s Clearing House lottery scam. The woman sent $5,000 believing she had won and needed to pay to receive her winnings. The woman was prepared to send $150,000.

A Byron man also fell prey to a lottery scam and sent approximately $80,000 to receive lottery winnings after receiving a phone call. The payments were supposedly for taxes and IRS fees.

Two Eyota men lost a combined $11,200 in utility and phone provider scams. One man paid about $7,2000 to a company claiming to provide utility services while the other lost about $4,000 in gift cards to a person claiming to be a representative of AT&T and DIRECTV.

To avoid falling prey to scammers, the sheriff's office reminds people to not buy gift cards if requested to do so by an unknown person. This is one of the most common and easily recognizable signs of scam.

"Stay in control of your financial records, sensitive documents, and computer access and not allow anyone access. Never give your personal information over the phone and resist the pressure from the caller to act immediately in giving information or sending payment," Rossman said. "Many businesses, such as banks or delivery services, are trained to recognize signs/evidence of someone being scammed and sending money to unknown persons so trust their recommendation if they believe you are being scammed or defrauded."

To report financial exploitation of an elderly person or vulnerable adult, you can call the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center at 1-888-880-1574 and they will forward the information to local investigating agencies like the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office, Rochester Police Department or Olmsted County Adult Protection offices.

For more tips and information, you may also contact the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Crime Prevention Office at 507-328-6777.

Full Article & Source:

Lifemark Flash Mob: The World's Oldest Flash Mob

A crowd of onlookers cheers wildly as an unexpected flash mob finishes their performance.

Indeed all flash mobs are a surprise, but this one was particularly special because of the dancers themselves. The flash mob was made up of senior citizens.

All of them were elderly folk that showed that they were still spry and could dance their hearts out.  

Source: YouTube

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Jamie Spears files to have Britney continue to pay his legal fees

By Alex Heigl and Eileen Reslen

Jamie Spears isn’t done telling Britney, “Gimme More.”

The pop star’s estranged father filed documents in court last week to have his daughter’s estate continue to pay for his legal fees, despite having been suspended from her conservatorship in September, Variety reports.

Jamie Spears sought the court’s “confirmation, authorization and direction” to compel the estate to fork over for attorneys “participating in proceedings concerning Jamie’s ongoing fiduciary duties relating to winding up” the conservatorship.

Meanwhile, “Mr. Spears reaped many millions of dollars from Britney as a conservator, while paying his lawyers millions more, all from Britney’s work and hard-earned money,” the 40-year-old Britney’s attorney Matthew Rosengart told Page Six in a statement Monday. 

“The conservatorship has been terminated and Mr. Spears was suspended ignominiously.” 

Rosengart concluded forcefully, “Under the circumstances, his petition is not only legally meritless, it is an abomination. Britney poignantly testified about the pain her father caused her and this only adds to it. This is not what a father who loves his daughter does.”

Spears was forced to foot her father’s legal bills for the duration of the 13-year conservatorship controlling virtually every aspect of her life, meaning she was put in the position of paying for both sides of her battle to free herself. Variety says that Spears’ attorney charges $1,200 per hour; it was not specified if one of Jamie’s attorneys named in the piece, Alex Weingarten, charged that figure.

“Prompt payment on account of Jamie’s attorneys’ fees is necessary to ensure the Conservatorship can be wound up quickly and efficiently to allow Britney to take control of her life as she and Jamie desire,” the 27-page petition, obtained by Variety, reads in part.

“It would be contrary to public policy if Jamie’s years of dedication to protect his daughter … could subject him to personal bankruptcy and ruin defending baseless claims,” the filing reads. “No person would ever want to step into the role as conservator if a conservatee could force a conservator to personally pay substantial legal fees defending unfounded allegations.”

The New York Times reported Sunday that Jamie picked up a $40,000 loan from his daughter’s business manager Lou Taylor‘s firm, Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group, days before Spears was placed under the conservatorship in 2008. It’s unknown how Jamie, who had previously filed for bankruptcy, used the cash.

Full Article & Source:

Ohio disciplinary counsel files complaint against Franklin County domestic-relations judge

by John Futty 
Franklin County Domestic Relations/Juvenile Court Judge Kim A. Browne, photographed in her courtroom on June 9, 2021.  Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch

The Ohio Supreme Court's disciplinary counsel has filed a complaint against a Franklin County judge, alleging that she required a litigant in a divorce case to sign a parenting agreement without consulting with his attorney.

Domestic Relations/Juvenile Court Judge Kim A. Browne violated three provisions of the code of judicial conduct by her actions, according to the complaint filed last week.

Among those provisions is one that states: "A judge may encourage parties to a proceeding and their lawyers to settle matters in dispute but shall not act in a manner that coerces any party into settlement."

Browne, a judge for 19 years, declined comment when contacted by The Dispatch. 

Her attorney, Michael Close, said he "can't believe" the complaint was filed.

"The only thing she's accused of is settling a case, which happens thousands of times a day," he said. "I think it's ludicrous."

Browne has until Jan. 4 to respond to the complaint, which was filed by Disciplinary Counsel Joseph Caligiuri before the state Board of Professional Conduct.

The board will hear the case and recommend to the Ohio Supreme Court whether Brown should face disciplinary sanctions, which can range from a public reprimand to the loss or suspension of her law license.

In addition to coercion, she is accused of violating parts of the code that requires a judge to avoid the appearance of impropriety and that he or she "accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding, or that person's lawyer, the right to be heard."

The incident occurred on Feb. 3, 2021, when Browneconducted a hearing on a man's request for a domestic-violence civil protection order against his wife during the course of their divorce proceedings.

After denying the man's request, Browneannounced that "she intended to order week-on/week-off parenting time" for the separated couple, the complaint states.

Parenting time was part of the divorce case, which was not the subject of the hearing. 

Despite the absence of the husband's attorney, Browne told the wife's attorney to draft an entry in the divorce case regarding parenting time, under terms that the judge dictated to him.

Browne "told the parties that they could not leave the courthouse until they either signed the entry she had dictated or entered into a parenting agreement of their own," the complaint alleges.

The estranged couple and the wife's attorney went out into the hallway, where the husband "signed the entry because he felt he had no other option."

The complaint notes that when Browne ruled on the parenting time, "she had not reviewed any allegations or pleadings in the divorce case."

At the time of Browne's ruling, the child was in the father's custody. Franklin County Children Services had filed a complaint alleging that the child was "an abused, neglected or dependent child" while in the mother's care.

The mother was permitted only supervised visitation with the child.

Six month's after Browne's ruling, the child's court-appointed guardian filed a motion seeking to terminate the mother's access to the child due to "her failure to cooperate with (the guardian) and her positive drug screen for fentanyl," the complaint states.

In response to the guardian's motion, Browne suspended the mother's visitation rights due to her failure to report for a drug screen and a second positive test for fentanyl.

Browne was appointed to a vacancy on the bench in 2002 by then-Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican. She won election that November to complete the term and has won reelection three times.

Browne is expected to be on the ballot in November 2022, seeking a fourth six-year term on the bench.

In June, Browne announced her intention to switch her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in a filing with the county board of elections

Full Article & Source:

Arkansas charges former nursing home chain owner with Medicaid and tax fraud

Joseph Schwartz oversaw the care of more than 7,000 older Americans through his company, Skyline Healthcare, which, at its peak, owned or ran more than 100 facilities in 11 states. Then the nursing home chain collapsed.Ace Reporters; Google Maps

by Laura Strickler

The former owner of a national nursing home chain that collapsed amid widespread allegations of neglect and financial mismanagement detailed in a previous NBC News investigation has been charged by the Arkansas attorney general with eight counts of Medicaid fraud and two tax fraud counts.

The man, Joseph Schwartz, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, is expected to turn himself in to Arkansas authorities in early January, said his Arkansas attorney, Bill James.

All 10 of the counts are felonies.

Arkansas is working with a group of other state attorneys general who are also considering possible civil action against Schwartz, said a person familiar with their discussions.

At one time, Schwartz oversaw the care of more than 7,000 older Americans through his company, Skyline Healthcare, which at its peak owned or ran more than 100 facilities in 11 states. With a handful of staff members, Schwartz managed them from a tiny office over a New Jersey pizzeria.

Image: Joseph Schwartz speaking to lawyers during a sworn deposition in June 2017 for a neglect case he settled.  He told the lawyers, "All our facilities are very, very, very , very compliant with all clients.  They all have every program that's necessar
Joseph Schwartz speaking to lawyers during a sworn deposition in June 2017 in a neglect case he settled. He told the lawyers: "All our facilities are very, very, very, very compliant with all clients. They all have every program that's necessary for patient care."Ace Reporters

From 2017 to 2019, the chain crumbled, and more than a dozen Skyline-operated nursing homes shut their doors, throwing residents, vendors, employees and state regulators into chaos, according to court filings, state officials and former employees.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge alleges that as it declined, the company did not just fail to pay bills but that it also committed fraud.

"These charges come after a 44-month-long investigation into Skyline's wrongdoings, and I will not sit idly by while anyone defrauds the State and Federal government out of millions of dollars to line their own pockets," Rutledge said. "It's important for Arkansans to know if they suspect Medicaid fraud, they should immediately contact my office."

The charges allege that Schwartz made false statements in Skyline's monthly Medicaid cost reports to the state, causing the state to overpay the companies controlled by Schwartz by more than $3 million, a person close to the investigation said.

The tax charges are related to allegations that Schwartz did not pay the state funds that were withheld from his employees' paychecks and also did not pay state income taxes.

Schwartz received tens of millions of dollars in gross income from his Arkansas facilities in 2018 and 2019 but failed to file an Arkansas tax return as required by law, Rutledge said.

Image: Joseph Schwartz listed a tiny office above this New Jersey pizzeria in Wood Ridge, NJ as the location where he ran over 100 nursing homes nationwide.
Joseph Schwartz listed a tiny office above this pizzeria in Wood Ridge, N.J., as the location where he ran over 100 nursing homes nationwide.NBC News

James said Schwartz will aggressively fight the charges and plans to plead not guilty. "I have not heard or seen anything to believe these allegations are true," James said.

Schwartz went from owning no nursing homes to owning more than 100 in a short span. In a sworn deposition in September, newly obtained by NBC News, Schwartz said that before he owned them, he had no work experience involving nursing homes other than selling them liability insurance. The deposition was taken by lawyers representing a plaintiff alleging a wrongful death.

Maggots and gangrene

The company left a wake of documented cases of extreme neglect. In Arkansas, maggots were found in a resident's catheter, according to documents when the state attorney general issued fines.

In 2017, Skyline had taken over Ashton Place, a nursing home in Memphis, Tennessee. Less than two months later, a resident whose leg had recently been amputated was taken from the nursing home, where he was found lying in feces, to a hospital, where nurses discovered maggots and gangrene in his leg, according to the police report obtained by NBC affiliate WMC.

His death two days later prompted a state investigation, which revealed that the man's dressing had not been changed for two days. Staff members told investigators that problems arose in part when Skyline told nurses to abandon electronic medical records and go back to paper record-keeping.

A month after the death, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees the nursing home industry, terminated Medicare certification for the facility and another Skyline property in Tennessee. It terminated a third in the state in 2018.

During the investigation, the company's medical director told inspectors, "I have no support, no direction."

In the deposition from September, which was in relation to a wrongful death suit filed last year in Arkansas on behalf of a resident named Lois Rack, Schwartz insisted that Skyline delivered high-caliber long-term care. An attorney for the plaintiffs, Blake Fromang, asked him, "Did you monitor the quality of care your facilities were providing?" He responded, "I did not monitor but I did make [staff] aware that that is what I want."

Fromang also asked, "Did you have a system in place to make sure [residents] were getting quality care?" Schwartz responded, "I'm sure." Fromang followed up, "Do you remember what it was?" Schwartz answered, "No."

Former employees alleged in an ongoing lawsuit that they discovered that the company had stopped paying health care premiums, leaving them to discover that they were uninsured, and they sued Skyline. Schwartz denied the allegations in court.

The Massachusetts attorney general cited Schwartz for failing to pay hundreds of employees their wages.

Ashton Place
Ashton Place Rehabilitation and Care Center in Memphis, Tenn.Google Maps

In another sworn deposition in the Arkansas wrongful death case, newly obtained by NBC News, Skyline's chief financial officer told an attorney that he would not put his own mother in a Skyline nursing home.

In several lawsuits against Schwartz, including the Rack case, lawyers for the plaintiffs asserted that Schwartz and his wife, Rosie, took cash out of the nursing homes as the company was collapsing, leaving little or no money to pay for pharmaceuticals, food and liability insurance. Schwartz's lawyers denied the allegations.

Schwartz controlled the nursing homes through an intricate web of more than 100 shell companies, according to state business records and federal nursing home ownership documents.

According to state officials, the ultimate collapse of the company led to the introduction and passage of legislation and regulations in at least three states, Ohio, Kansas and Arkansas, to require increased vetting of new nursing home owners before they obtain licenses.

The Andover morgue

Despite the well-documented implosion of Skyline, Schwartz continues to own at least four nursing homes, according to federal ownership records. Schwartz also confirmed in the sworn August deposition that even after he sold the facilities he owned in Arkansas, he had a profit-sharing agreement that allowed him to continue to earn money from them. A month later, when he was asked about the profit-sharing arrangement, Schwartz said he is using the profits to pay off debts, not for his personal gain.

Schwartz's son Louis Schwartz, a former vice president of Skyline, also continues to own nursing homes, such as the facility in Andover, New Jersey, once known as Andover Subacute II, which has been renamed Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center.

Nineteen months ago, 17 bodies were discovered stuffed into a tiny morgue at Andover Subacute II during the early stages of the Covid pandemic, police said.

The facility is now part of a state attorney general's investigation into "facilities with high numbers of Covid-related deaths and below-average track records for health inspections, staffing, and quality of care."

Kyle Wilson, a police officer in Andover Township, toured the facility a few days before residents began dying in large numbers.

Wilson wrote in a memo to his sheriff that there was no Covid testing at the facility and that the staff had not segregated the patients suspected of having Covid-19. He wrote: "It is my opinion that the acquisition of [personal protective equipment] alone will not resolve the rate of spread at this facility. ... [S]taff are undoubtedly contaminated throughout their shift. While the staff are tangibly scared, a culture of safety is not present in this facility. They have not been educated. They do not even know what they do not know."

Following national coverage and payment of a $221,000 fine for an "immediate jeopardy" violation, as well as a pause in accepting new residents, the owners of Andover Subacute changed the name to Woodland Behavioral and began accepting new residents.

Full Article & Source:

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Congressman’s bill reforms the power of attorney after the Spears case – Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

(LEX 18) — Kentucky General Assembly has submitted a bill to reform the way the guardianship and power of attorneys work in Kentucky, following the guardianship system involving pop singer Britney Spears.

The bill, introduced by Parliamentarian Patty Minter, aims to “prevent the abuse and exploitation of those who cannot make their own decisions.”

Jamie Spears has been in control of her daughters’ finances since the pop star signed the deal in February 2008 after a series of mental health episodes. Last month, a California judge ended the power of attorney.

Abbreviation for “Advocacy for Guardians to Eliminate Exploitation,” the CARE Act will give parents or those who are eligible for guardians a louder voice to express their need to the courts. It also empowers the court to make changes when appropriate.

“Current power of attorney and guardianship legislation aims to help those who cannot help themselves, but they have been abused and abusive situations similar to those experienced by Britney Spears. That’s why it’s important to update the law and free parents and guardians from abuse. “

This bill makes it easy to request a change or termination of a guardian or guardian if circumstances change. They can also stay in touch with their families through the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. If the court finds that it is not possible to make a decision on its own due to mental health or cognitive impairment, the individual may be placed under the control of a guardian or guardian.

The CARE Act is currently pre-submitted as Bill Request 850 and will be considered at the 2022 General Assembly.

Full Article & Source:

Alabama judge removed for calling another judge 'Uncle Tom,' numerous other ethics violations

Jefferson County Judge Nakita Blocton also called another judge a 'fat b****' and an employee a 'heifer'

By Danielle Wallace

An Alabama judge was removed from the bench for committing several substantial ethics violations, including referring to another judge as an "Uncle Tom," a derogatory term meant to describe a Black person who is overly allegiant to White people. 

Jefferson County Judge Nakita Blocton, who is herself Black, "engaged in a pattern and practice of making inappropriate comments – for example, calling one judge ‘Uncle Tom" and another judge a ‘fat b****’ and calling an employee a heifer," according to the findings of a commission that filed a complaint against the judge for various ethics violations.  

The commission also found that Blocton engaged in a pattern of abuse of staff, attorneys and litigants that included referring to one employee as a "heifer" and verbally abusing and belittling another employee. 

The judge ordered her employees to allow her to see their private cellphones and provide their private log-in credentials on work computers in an effort to delete material relevant to the investigation into her conduct. She also made her employees work unreasonable hours, including excessive, unproductive and unnecessary late night, according to the commission. 

Jefferson County Judge Nakita Blocton was removed from the bench over several ethical violations. 

Jefferson County Judge Nakita Blocton was removed from the bench over several ethical violations.  (Tenth Judicial Circuit Court of Alabama )

Although "she spent a substantial amount of time in her office," Blocton failed to promptly dispose of many cases assigned to her and was unable to remedy a backlog of cases. 

Blocton allegedly made an attorney beg her not to fire an employee who had spoken with a litigant about the harm she had suffered due to the delay in solving the litigant's case.

One of two judges assigned to handle Blocton’s backlog in February acknowledged the "appalling" amount of cases left pending for an inappropriate amount of time without resolution as the other said such delays "gave a black-eye" to the judicial system.

Blocton also used several Facebook aliases to communicate with litigants in pending domestic-relations cases in an effort to affect the outcome of those cases, according to the commission. 

She also engaged in "a pattern of dishonesty and deception" by using the aliases to provide information to litigants in cases and asking potential witnesses to delete evidence related to the commission’s investigation and attempting to influence testimony.

According to an initial complaint made against the judge in May, one person involved in divorce litigation said the judge used online aliases to send several threatening messages which included, "THE DEVIL IS WATCHING U," "LEAVE THOSE BLACK WOMEN DEMOCRATS ALONE." 

The commission failed to gather enough evidence to support other allegations against Brocton, including that the judge was using drugs, was mentally unstable and made an inappropriate campaign contribution to a Birmingham mayoral candidate. 

All nine judges on the Alabama Court of the Judiciary acted on Dec. 10. to remove Blocton from the bench and ordered her to pay the costs of their proceeding. 

"We were trying to keep her on the bench, and we were disappointed they removed her from the bench," Blocton’s attorney, Emory Anthony, told Above The Law.

Full Article & Source:
See Also: 

Supported Decision-Making Pilot Program

News Provided By
New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities
December 20, 2021, 10:42 GMT

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) is pleased to announce that we are expanding the Supported Decision-Making New York pilot program to develop greater support for people with developmental disabilities who choose to exercise supported decision-making.

The Supported Decision-Making NY pilot program, originally funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, began in 2016. OPWDD is now dedicating a portion of the funding it will receive through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to continue the pilot program, expanding it to include supported decision-making facilitation as an effective way to ensure that people are assisted to implement effective and sustainable supported decision-making agreements. Facilitation can make a critical difference in the success people experience in implementing supported decision-making by ensuring that they are appropriately prepared for the challenges of making their own decisions with supports. 

To inform our development of supported decision-making policy and help us define the scope of supported decision-making facilitation services to be made available under the Home and Community-Based Services waiver, OPWDD will fund a 3-year facilitation pilot program. Supported Decision-Making NY has operated the existing 5-year supported decision-making pilot program in New York and will be funded to expand that pilot to further advance the field of supported decision-making with a focus specifically on facilitation. The new pilot will allow OPWDD to refine its understanding of supported decision-making facilitation, implement facilitation training materials, identify and equip providers of facilitation services, develop a supported decision-making facilitation resource center model, embed the use of supported decision-making in existing systems, and advance the use of supported decision-making as an alternative to adult guardianship.  

This initiative is part of a greater effort to enhance, improve and transform key aspects of the OPWDD service system using COVID-19 relief funds awarded by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. These funds are targeted to specific activities across a wide range of OPWDD programs and provide a timely opportunity to address critical challenges. I encourage you to watch for future announcements and check our website regularly for updates on these exciting projects. 

OPWDD’s plans for all of its ARPA funds can be found at:


Kerri E. Neifeld Acting Commissioner

Full Article & Source:

Monday, December 20, 2021

Britney Spears’ conservatorship case heads back to court ‘to deal with financial and accounting matters’

Britney Spears has been freed from her conservatorship, but the case is heading back to court on Wednesday.

The hearing is set to address “financial and accounting matters.” There is another hearing set for Jan. 19 to address the same matters.

Spears’ attorney, former federal prosecutor Mathew Rosengart, requested the meeting as a “safety net” regarding her estate as the temporary conservator of the estate, certified public accountant John Zabel, will handle the transition of Spears’ assets and matters regarding the trust.

When Judge Brenda Penny handed down the decision to terminate the conservatorship last month, Rosengart called the move a “monumental day” at a news conference outside the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.

Rosengart had previously claimed to Fox News Digital that Jamie Spears, the singer’s father, was ducking a deposition aimed at learning more about alleged recordings from illegally planted listening devices in the pop star’s cellular device and the bedroom in her home.  

He maintained during the same press conference immediately following the hearing that he was “proud to be in the right place at the right time.”

Britney Spears has been freed from her conservatorship, but the case is heading back to court on Wednesday. The Dec. 9 hearing should produce a clearer vision of how Britney Spears’ assets will be handled moving forward.
(Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

“Many journalists have speculated or commented in regards to James P. Spears,” he continued. “I haven’t spoken to it [but it] is correct that we served a notice of deposition for Jamie to testify under oath.”

“If Britney wants, we will pursue James Spears’ deposition,” he added. Rosengart also slammed Jamie, stating: “This conservatorship was corrupted by James P. Spears.”

Regarding keeping Zabel on temporarily, Rosengart told the judge: “We have engaged in an orderly transfer of power… a safety net has been put in place both on the financial side and on the personal side.”

Zabel’s attorney previously filed documents with the court to obtain additional access that would allow him to execute planning documents related to the trust and a durable power of attorney.

Rosengart told the judge at the time: “Mr. Zabel should retain powers to transfer assets,” adding, “The conservatorship as a practical matter should end today with Zabel continuing.”

Wednesday’s hearing should produce a clearer vision of how Spears’ assets will be handled moving forward.

Full Article & Source:

After Britney Spears battle and local scandals, Alabama advocates push alternatives to guardianship

Colby Spangler studies at the University of Alabama and promotes alternatives to legal guardianship, which strips people of independence.

By Amy Yurkanin

Colby Spangler, 22, may not seem to have much in common with singer Britney Spears.

The young man from Shelby County did play music in his high school band but now focuses on wildlife studies through a program offered by the University of Alabama for students with intellectual disabilities. Spangler, who is in his last year of study, works part-time, belongs to a fraternity and lives in an apartment.

But his mom, Kim Spangler, said her son was in “the school-to-guardianship pipeline” until he hit high school. Many well-meaning people involved in special education advised her to seek guardianship when he turned 19 so he could continue to receive services.

“Schools will tell you as soon as they turn 19, you need to become their guardian,” Kim Spangler said. “So we just kind of believed that. The more research we did, the more we realized it wasn’t absolutely necessary.”

Instead of entering a guardianship, like the one Spears recently had dissolved, Spangler and his family opted for an alternative that gives him more control. It’s called supported decision-making, and the system surrounds him with support from friends and family.

Spangler’s decision-making team consists of several people who can offer advice on everything from social life to finances. Kim Spangler said it took about a year and a half to build her son’s team. It has nine people who each cover specific areas such as independent living, safety and spiritual growth. They can advise and help guide Spangler, but ultimately he makes the decisions.

Courts can award guardianship to a family member or professional if an expert determines a person cannot make rational decisions. Some people need guardians, said James Tucker, director of the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program.

But the system also strips people of their rights and independence. The Britney Spears case, and the conservatorship case of Golden Flake heiress Joann Bashinksy in Alabama, also raised questions about whether a legal framework designed for protection can be used to exploit individuals, including the elderly and disabled. The default in Alabama has been for courts to award full guardianships in cases like Spangler’s when a more limited arrangement might be better, Tucker said.

“The neat thing about this support decision-making is that the child is a young adult learning to live independently like other young adults,” Tucker said.

Several states have passed laws recognizing supported decision-making as an alternative to guardianship, but not Alabama.

Kim Spangler wants other adults to know supported decision-making can work for families and people with disabilities. If she had become her son’s guardian when he turned 19, Spangler probably wouldn’t have been able to attend the University of Alabama and thrive in ways she never expected.

“I know COVID came around and messed everything up, but my adult life is really easy right now,” Spangler said.

One day, Spangler told his mother he wanted to join a fraternity. He pledged Beta Upsilon Chi, a Christian fraternity known as BYX. He recently traveled with them to Six Flags in Georgia.

“I went online and found fraternities and looked for one I would want to join,” Spangler said.

That caught his mother off guard. Kim Spangler said learning to let go and trust her son has been hard but rewarding.

“Colby has met or exceeded every single one of the challenges and has kind of demonstrated his capacity to us,” Spangler said. “We think he is ready for a more independent kind of life and we think he will do very well.”

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Former assistant AG Brian Kolodziej disbarred after misconduct, conviction

By: Heather Catallo

(WXYZ) — A controversial former assistant attorney general can no longer practice law.

The 7 Investigators first revealed how Brian Kolodziej was at the center of a case where a police officer, Sean MacMaster, and his step-father said they were falsely accused of molesting the officer’s daughter.

Attorney General Dana Nessel dismissed the charges against the men after Kolodziej’s misconduct in the MacMaster case came to light. The career prosecutor was also later convicted of willful neglect of duty of a public officer for having a relationship with a sex assault victim in a separate case in Isabella County.

The state Attorney Discipline Board issued the notice of disbarment Wednesday.

MacMaster is now suing Koloziej, alleging the former assistant AG violated MacMaster’s constitutional rights in several ways including malicious prosecution and excessive pretrial punishment with 151 days in jail without bond.

  Notice of Disbarment by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd

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Sunday, December 19, 2021

Tennessee circuit court clerk indicted on 16 charges including forgery in Davidson County

Tennessee circuit court clerk indicted on 16 charges including forgery in Davidson County (Photo: Clay County Circuit Court courtesy Tennessee Comptroller's Office)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — A Clay County circuit court clerk has been indicted on 16 charges following an investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller's Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

Susan Birdwell is facing charges in both Davidson and Clay counties.

Investigators found Birdwell photocopied a judge's signature on expungement orders in at least 117 cases without the judge's knowledge or approval. She's also accused of filing the expungement orders with the TBI to be processed.

"Investigators could not determine the legal sufficiency of the expungement orders due to a lack of documentation remaining in the individual cases," the comptroller's office wrote.

Birdwell also reportedly retained at least 497 expungement orders in unsecured places within the office. State law requires the clerk to remove and destroy all public records within 60 days from the date the expungement is issued.

The comptroller's office said the investigation led to the following findings:

On August 17, 2021, Birdwell met with investigators regarding the issues with the expungement orders. She admitted it was wrong to photocopy the judge’s signature and not destroy the expungement orders as required by law. Two days later, she gathered two additional binders containing expungement orders and shredded all but seven orders. She did not inform investigators about those binders and made no attempt to contact investigators before shredding the documents.

Additionally, investigators revealed that Birdwell received compensation from an employee who administered the county’s traffic school. She required employees who were responsible for the operation of the traffic school to remit $82 to her each month. Birdwell was not entitled to receive additional compensation beyond her county officer salary.

Lastly, Birdwell improperly accepted a total of $8,464 in cash payments from citizens and then used her personal credit card to make online payments on their behalf to the Tennessee Department of Safety. The cash should have been deposited with the Clay County Trustee’s Office. Birdwell earned at least $169.28 in cash back rewards on her credit card because of her payments made to the Tennessee Department of Safety.

In Davidson County, Birdwell faces six counts of forgery, three counts of tampering with governmental records, and two counts of official misconduct. In Clay County, she's charged with one count of soliciting unlawful compensation, one count of misrepresenting information to a state auditor, and three counts of official misconduct.

She has since been suspended from office.

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NY State, Federal Legislation Targets Spoofing

In legislative news, New York enacted two new telemarketing-related laws while Congress is considering a measure that would double the penalties for illegal caller ID spoofing.

On November 8, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed two bills: SB 6267/AB 268, which requires telecommunications providers to block certain numbers, and SB 4281/AB 585a, mandating that voice services providers implement the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication framework to validate that a call is actually coming from the number displayed by caller ID.

As explained in a statement from the Governor, SB 6267/AB 268 codifies into New York state law the provisions of a federal rule released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2017 that took effect in June, allowing telecommunications companies to proactively block calls from certain numbers.

Calls that will be blocked under this new law “are the most likely to be illegitimate,” Governor Hochul said, as they come from numbers that do not or cannot make outgoing calls and are indicative of spoofing schemes in which the true caller identity is masked behind a fake, invalid number.

The second New York bill also tracks federal developments. Pursuant to the federal Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act signed into law in December 2019, the FCC issued a rule requiring providers to implement call authentication technology known as STIR/SHAKEN by June 2021. As summarized by the FCC, “STIR/SHAKEN is a framework of interconnected standards. STIR/SHAKEN are acronyms for the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) standards.”

New York’s SB 4281/AB 585a tracks the mandate to implement the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication framework, which uses cryptography to validate that a call is actually from the number displayed by caller ID, preventing the spoofing of phone numbers and making it easier to trace illegal calls back to the source.

The new measure will provide for enhanced state enforcement, Governor Hochul said.

“New Yorkers are fed up with annoying, predatory robocalls, and we’re taking action to stop them,” she said in a statement about the new laws. “This legislation will enable telecom companies to prevent these calls from coming in the first place, as well as empower our state government to ensure that voice service providers are validating who is making these calls so enforcement action can be taken against bad actors.”

On the federal level, a congressional committee approved S. 594, the Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act of 2021.

Sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the bill was introduced in March.

As currently in effect, the Truth in Caller ID Act provides for penalties of $10,000 per violation with a maximum fine of $1 million for violations of the prohibition on “the use of misleading or inaccurate caller ID information to intentionally defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value.”

S. 594 would double the fines to $20,000 and $2 million, respectively.

On November 17, 2021, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation unanimously approved the measure.

“Older Americans lose billions of dollars each year to an ever-growing array of financial exploitation schemes,” Sen. Collins said in a statement about the committee’s approval. “These scams vary in nature, from COVID-19 scams to government imposter scams to prize, sweepstakes and lottery scams. We must work together to stop the criminals who use illegal robocalls and spoofing to steal American’s hard-earned savings and personal information. By increasing penalties for spoofing violations, the bi-partisan [bill] would provide an additional tool in this fight. I am pleased that the Commerce Committee advanced our legislation … and I urge my colleagues to support its passage.”

To read SB 6267/AB 268 click here.

To read SB 4281/AB 585a, click here.

To read S. 594, click here.

Why it matters: As demonstrated by the new laws in New York as well as the proposed legislation in Congress, lawmakers across the country continue to keep a close eye on telemarketing and the issue of spoofed calls.

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Athens man pleads guilty to financial exploitation of elderly

By Jessica Barnett and Nicole Zedeck

William Rodney Jackson

An Athens man pleaded guilty Friday to deceiving four senior citizens out of thousands of dollars, the Alabama Securities Commission announced.

William Rodney Jackson was indicted in 2019 on three counts of first-degree financial exploitation of the elderly. The charges stemmed from incidents in 2019 involving a total of four victims over the age of 60, records show.

ASC Chief Deputy Director Amanda Senn said Jackson used a scheme to convince people to invest with them when they really weren't investing in anything. "It was through theft and deception" that he managed to take thousands of dollars from his victims, all of whom were related to him.

“Alabamians are fortunate that we have laws that allow the prosecution of those who look to exploit the elderly financially,” said ASC Director Joseph P. Borg said. “We want the message to be clear, that if you financially exploit anyone, especially an individual over the age of 60, there will be serious consequences.”

Under Jackson’s plea agreement, he will have to pay $13,500 in restitution. He was also sentenced to five years in prison, suspended pending completion of three years of probation.

Senn thanked Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones for his help in resolving the case.

“Our elderly are particularly vulnerable to grifters and con men, and our office places a strong emphasis on this criminal activity," Senn said. 

She told WAAY 31 their biggest takeaway from cases like these is creating public awareness of these crimes.

"We have a lot of Alabama seniors that are exploited, and so many of them go unreported," she said.

The ASC encourages anyone with concerns about a potential investment opportunity or advice to contact their office at 800-222-1253. The public can also contact the ASC to report suspected fraud, inappropriate securities business practices or obtain consumer information.

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