Saturday, June 11, 2022

PA ADAPT protests 'predatory' guardianship practices in Pennsylvania

by NCPA Staff

Harrisburg, Pa. — PA ADAPT, an activist group for disabled people’s rights, is demanding that Governor Tom Wolf make reforms and stop what they call “predatory” guardianship practices.

PA Adapt held a protest at the state capitol on June 8 to push for their demands.

Pennsylvania currently has ten Area Agencies on Aging that oversee the guardianship of individuals ordered by the court. These guardianship agencies then have control over an individual’s assets and can place them inside of an institution.

“Money flows from the estate of the ward or government entitlements making guardianship a lucrative industry," states a PA ADAPT press release.

The organization presented the following demands:

  • We demand Governor Wolf direct Secretary of Aging, Robert Torres to come speak with us NOW!
  • We demand Secretary Torres schedule and facilitate a meeting with Huntingdon County Area Agency on Aging, David Italiano and the Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living to create a care plan designed for David, with his input.
  • We demand Governor Wolf instructs Secretary Torres and PA Area Agencies on Aging work collaborate with Centers for Independent Living (CILs) to address the many guardianship issues present in PA
  • We demand Governor Wolf convene a task force of persons currently at risk of or formerly subject to guardianship, CILs, Area Agencies on Aging, Adult Protection Services, Ombudsman, Protection & Advocacy, family and professional guardians to develop an enforceable bill of rights

“Even the American Bar Association thinks that guardianship is a ‘drastic intervention,’ and that less restrictive options are preferred,” said Mike Grier of Pennsylvania Council of Independent Living (PCIL).

“That drastic intervention by aging organizations and courts here in Pennsylvania has stripped David Italiano and countless others of their dignity, independence, privacy rights, personal & real property and their fundamental right to choose where they live and with whom they associate. The current situation is simply untenable and must be changed.” 

David Italiano is a disabled person that is currently being institutionalized against his wishes. An Amicus Brief was filed on April 18 with the Supreme Court regarding his case, in an attempt to overturn guardianship laws. 

PA ADAPT said they'd like to see the state follow the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act (Uniform Act).

Key provisions within the act are to prohibit guardianships where less restrictive alternatives would meet an adult's functional needs; require specific court findings before certain critical rights (e.g., to marry, vote, choose visitors) are abridged; require petitioners to state whether less restrictive alternatives have been tried and justify any failure to do so; create mechanisms that adults subject to guardianship and others can use to trigger modification or termination of an order.

Full Article & Source:

GLC Explainer Tackles Supported Decision-Making, Agreements

by Albany Law School

Newswise — The latest explainer from the Government Law Center at Albany Law School explores Supported Decision-Making and Supported Decision-Making Agreements, one of the recent developments in New York’s legislature.

In mid-May, the New York State Senate and Assembly passed legislative measures to enhance inclusion, access, and protections for New Yorkers living with disabilities. While still pending the signature of Governor Kathy Hochul, the legislation includes recognition of Supported Decision-Making Agreements. The package will, “strengthen and streamline resources, and correct historical tropes that are both harmful and inaccurate” to the disabled community, according to a press release from the State Senate.

In the explainer, Rose Mary Bailly – Special Consultant on Aging Law within the GLC – points out that anyone who has have ever sought advice on buying a car, a pair of running shoes, or even a jar of pasta sauce, has engaged in supported decision-making, without a second thought.  Most New York adults are presumed to have the “legal capacity” to make decisions. Legal capacity being “the capacity and power to engage in a particular undertaking or transaction, to maintain a particular status with another individual, and more in general to create, modify or extinguish legal relationships” and “have those decisions legally recognized,” Bailly wrote. 

Individuals with developmental disabilities generally do not have this certainty. 

“By the time they reach 18 years of age, families are pressured by schools, physicians, service providers, and other parents to get guardianship notwithstanding the fact a guardianship may not be necessary, and that the loss of rights accompanying it is not well understood,” Bailly points out in the explainer. “Once a guardian is appointed for an individual, the guardian makes all the decisions and the individual is left without authority to make any decisions.”

“New York’s legislative recognition of supported decision-making is significant because it acknowledges the ability of individuals with disabilities to live independent lives, and avoid guardianship,” Bailly said. “Supported decision-making as well as decision-making alternatives to guardianship should be included as alternative options in New York’s developmental disabilities guardianship statute so that families and individuals with developmental disabilities are fully informed about their choices.”

The explainer is the latest in a series from the GLC that concisely map out the law that applies to important questions of public policy. The GLC has also created explainers on the federal Voting Rights Act, political redistricting in New York, immigration, aging, and policing policy.

Read the explainer here.

Full Article & Source:

Troubled Iowa center for disabled fined for resident's death

by Associated Press

Troubled Iowa center for disabled fined for resident's death. (Storyblocks)

State inspectors say a troubled Iowa center for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities failed to monitor the fluid intake of a 30-year-old resident who died in February due to dehydration.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals has fined the Glenwood Resource Center $10,000 after inspectors found that center staff failed to ensure that the man received about 100 ounces of fluids every day ordered by his doctor after he was hospitalized in November for dehydration.

The Glenwood center on Friday referred questions about the man's death to the Iowa Department of Human Services, which did not immediately answer questions on whether any center staff faced discipline, termination or criminal investigation related to the death.

Full Article & Source:

Friday, June 10, 2022

Charges dismissed against COVID patient who assaulted senior citizen in nursing home

By: Kimberly Craig

DETROIT (WXYZ) — "He shouldn't be in prison," Marty Hayden said about his son Jadon, now 22, who had been facing multiple charges including assault for the May 2020 beating of Norman Bledsoe inside a nursing home on Detroit's west side.

The charges against Jadon Hayden were dismissed after he was found incompetent. Hayden now resides in a psychiatric hospital in the Kalamazoo area where he cannot come and go. 

Marty Hayden said if his son had been convicted and sent to prison, it would have only worsened his mental health issues.

"So the system is going to fail him again. He's not going to be rehabilitated," Marty Hayden told 7 Action News Tuesday, adding that because of his son's mental health issues, he cannot understand the gravity of his actions.

Marty Hayden is hoping to find a lawyer to hold those responsible for placing his son in the nursing home, where he believes he was set up to fail and Bledsoe to become a victim.

"Why should you put him in a nursing home? All around elderly people," he said. 

Jadon Hayden videotaped himself repeatedly hitting Bledsoe as the Army veteran laid in his bed. The two men shared a room at the Westwood Nursing Center on Detroit's west side.

Jadon Hayden was in a group home in Washtenaw County when he called his father to say he was hearing voices and thought people were out to kill him.

"He was in crisis mode," Marty Hayden said about his son who had a known history of assaultive behavior.

In early May 2020, Jadon Hayden called 911 so that he could be sent to a hospital for treatment. His father said it was at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor where Jadon was then diagnosed with COVID-19. He said that's when the 20-year-old who had dreams of becoming a boxer was sent to the nursing home to recover.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state health officials have been criticized for allowing nursing homes to accept those recovering from COVID-19 for continued care. And nursing homes have been criticized as being motivated by money to participate in being a COVID-19 hub.

"They dropped the ball. Why would they put my my child in a nursing home," said Marty Hayden, adding that everyone involved in making the decision to send his son to the nursing home should have seen that he had assaultive behavior in his record as well as other issues stemming from his schizophrenia.

"They should have known," said Jadon Hayden's attorney Brian Berry. "I think the facility had an idea of who Jadon was and what type of treatment he needed. I think they knew, or had a history, that he was schizophrenic and it should have been handled differently."

Berry said while the charges were dismissed without prejudice, he thinks it's unlikely the case will be refiled.

"Jadon's condition is not going to change very much," he said. "Unfortunately, both the victim in this case and the defendant were both in put in a bad situation."

Bledsoe died in another nursing facility two months after the assault. His death was not ruled a homicide.

Bledsoe's family has retained attorney Geoffrey Fieger and a lawsuit has been filed against the nursing home.

Marty Hayden said he extends his condolences to Bledsoe's family. He said he also hopes those involved in placing his son in the nursing home will be held accountable. 

7 Action News contacted Westwood Nursing Center, but they have not responded.

Bledsoe's brother said he is hoping that one day, Jadon Hayden will be held accountable for his actions.

Full Article & Source:

Legal author's bar reinstatement bid rebuffed by D.C. ethics panel

By Mike Scarcella

(Reuters) - A disbarred author who has written extensively on the law has failed to show he is fit to resume practicing in the profession, a Washington, D.C., attorney ethics panel said in a report released on Wednesday.

The report from a hearing committee of the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility recommended that the D.C. Court of Appeals, which administers attorney discipline in the nation's capital, deny Joel Joseph's petition to be reinstated to the bar.

The D.C. Court of Appeals in 2015 disbarred Joseph, 73, as a reciprocal penalty after a Maryland court took that action over allegations that he deceived state and federal courts in California about where he was living.

The committee called Joseph "an intellectually robust and curious person." Joseph has litigated public-interest cases and has written books on the Justice Department and the courts, including "Black Mondays: Worst Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court."

Court rules allow attorneys to seek "pro hac vice" admission to represent a client in a state where the lawyer doesn't live or work. Joseph told California courts he was a resident of Maryland, where he had a bar license, when in fact he was living in California, the panel said.

"The nature and circumstances of petitioner's misconduct is serious and troubling," the ethics panel wrote in its report. "Lying to a court about his residency to obtain admission pro hac vice directly relates to [his] honesty, integrity and judgment."

Joseph did not immediately respond to messages on Thursday seeking comment.

The head of the D.C. bar's disciplinary office, Hamilton "Phil" Fox III, declined to comment.

The ethics panel said Joseph "has not proven that he recognizes the seriousness of his misconduct."

Joseph's "ongoing description of himself as a lawyer" after his 2011 disbarment in Maryland "is misleading to the public," the panel said.

At a hearing in his case in February, Joseph argued: "I can call myself a lawyer as long as I have a JD degree."

He criticized any continued effort by bar regulators in D.C. to prevent him from practicing.

"They should be busy going after the attorneys who are really cheating clients and doing bad things," he said.

In a filing, Joseph said his "punishment has been unreasonably severe."

The case is In the Matter of Joel D. Joseph, D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility, No. 21-BD-029.

Full Article & Source:

DHR reminds public to watch for signs of elder abuse

By Joyanna Love

Alabamians can help protect those at risk of Elder Abuse by watching for warning signs . (METRO | STOCK)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) is encouraging the public to help protect older family members, friends, neighbors and others from elder abuse by learning to recognize the warning signs of mistreatment.

“A sharp eye is the best defense against elder abuse, neglect and exploitation,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “I urge all Alabamians to watch for the warning signs and speak up at the first sign of harm. We value older adults in Alabama, and we all must do our part to keep them safe.”

Thousands of elderly and disabled adults are abused, neglected and exploited in Alabama every year. Last year alone, DHR’s Adult Protective Services Division received 11,122 reports of elder abuse across the state. Gov. Kay Ivey proclaimed June 15, 2022, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Alabama to raise awareness about the problem.

An estimated 1 in 10 Americans over age 60 have experienced abuse. Victims include adults of all genders, races and incomes. The problem is expected to worsen as adults live longer and become more dependent on others for care. Alabamians can help protect those at risk by watching for these warning signs:

  • Increased fear or anxiety
  • Isolation from friends or family
  • Withdrawal from normal activities
  • Unusual changes in behavior or sleep
  • Unexplained injuries, bruises, cuts or sores
  • Unsanitary living conditions and poor hygiene

Unusual or sudden changes in financial spending patterns, will or other important documents

Report suspected elder abuse by calling the Adult Abuse Hotline at 1-800-458-7214, emailing or contacting the local DHR county office at 205-258-4900

All reports are confidential and may be made anonymously.

Full Article & Source:

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Louisiana to raise awareness about elder abuse in June

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to be recognized on June 15.

by Morgan Lentes

View Video

Louisiana will recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15.

In the New Orleans Metro area, the Gretna Council on Aging's Office, which is located 476 Franklin Street, will host an event to answer questions for people wishing to be advocates for older individuals. That event is happening from 8:30 to 10 a.m.

Ebony Thomas-Phillips, with the Governor's Office of Elderly Affairs, told WDSU that cases of elder abuse often go underreported in the state.

"We estimate that we are only receiving one in 10 cases that are actually occurring," said Thomas-Phillips. "Here in Louisiana, over the last fiscal year, we investigated 5,500 cases of abuse, so it is prevalent."

Elder abuse comes in many forms, including physical or sexual abuse, financial exploitation and abuse of power of attorney.

"One thing we can say about elders is they pay their bills and they pay them on time," said Thomas-Phillips. "So when you see things like (late fees) that can be a red flag."

Thomas-Phillips encouraged anyone who believes elder abuse is occurring to call 833-577-6532 and file an anonymous complaint. Staff with the state's elderly protective services program will then investigate the claim.

Full Article & Source:

Washington County magistrate fights to keep his job after willful misconduct charge

According to state records, Manzie Broxton is asking the state Supreme Court to throw out statements he made to state investigators.

Author: 13WMAZ Staff

SANDERSVILLE, Ga. — A Washington County magistrate judge charged with willful misconduct is fighting to keep this job.

According to state records, Manzie Broxton asked the state Supreme Court Monday to throw out statements he made to state investigators.

He also wants the court to rule the investigators can’t testify against him.

Back in January, Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission filed a complaint claiming that Broxton violated his oath more than two dozen times.

In their original complaint, they said Broxton:

  • Notified an estranged husband his wife was at the courthouse filing a complaint against him, leading to the man assaulting her in the parking lot. He then held a two-hour hearing with the bleeding woman in his courtroom.
  • Contacted the mother of a man who was in an accident with Broxton's son. The judge allegedly threatened to charge the man with disorderly conduct unless he paid Broxton's son $397.40.
  • Issued arrest warrants for robbery against two men even though Sheriff Joel Cochran told him the complaint was false and there was no probable cause to charge them. Broxton reportedly said he wanted to get the men "off the street" because they were involved in some unrelated shootings.

Broxton’s new motion argues investigators made a surprise visit last year and interviewed him without his lawyer present. He says he gave “damaging information” the state agency used against him.

The commission may hold a hearing to decide whether Broxton should be disciplined, suspended, or removed.

He was elected chief magistrate in 2020. Broxton has not returned our phone calls.

Full Article & Source:

2 suspects charged in vulnerable adult abuse investigation

Photo: Joseph McCarty and Karen McCarty(Jones County Sheriff's Department)

By Emily Blackmarr

UPDATE: According to the Jones County Sheriff’s Department, the victims were vulnerable adults in their 30s and 40s.

JONES COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - Two people have been charged in connection to a vulnerable adult abuse investigation in Jones County.

According to the Jones County Sheriff’s Department, Karen McCarty is charged with one count of grand larceny, two counts of exploitation of a vulnerable person and one count of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable person. Joseph McCarty is charged with kidnapping and felonious infliction of severe mental anguish upon a vulnerable person.

JCSD Investigator Denny Graham said the case started as a possible burglary investigation. He said a vulnerable couple, a man and woman, moved from a nursing home into the Lone Oaks Apartments and were being cared for by a third party, who had known one of the residents from the past.

Graham said the couple later became sick and had to be placed back into a nursing home. The items in the couple’s home were later reported missing, which lead to the initial burglary investigation.

The investigator said medical personnel who were involved in the couple’s care; however, reached out to him about the case. He said the case then evolved into an investigation of allegations of neglect, primarily of a vulnerable man, and exploration.

According to court records, The vulnerable couple alleges that Karen, their primary caregiver, went into the apartment with a key she possessed and stole the entire contents of the apartment while they were being admitted into a nursing home for long-term care in March. The couple estimated the value of the items stolen to be approximately $3,585.

The records said that the man was bed-bound due to being paralyzed from Spinal Bifida. He claims Karen took his Social Security money to pay his bills and then told him “there was never any money left over.” Since Karen had been his caregiver from August 2021 to March 2022, the victim estimated she stole approximately $3,363.

The records also claim that Karen allegedly (from August 2021 to March 2022), willfully, intentionally and “unlawfully and felonious” failed to provide adequate care to the man.

The records said Karen allegedly allowed the vulnerable victim to constantly remain on urine-soaked pads in the same position without care for hours at a time, causing the wound to worsen to the point of muscle and bone exposure to infection.

Moreover, according to court records, the vulnerable woman claimed that Joseph allegedly exposed himself to her while she was in Karen’s apartment around Christmas. She said Joseph never touched her, but he allegedly touched himself in front of her while the two of them were alone, which made her feel scared and upset due to past trauma.

The two suspects were arrested on May 16 and made their initial appearance in Jones County Justice Court, but later bonded out.

Jones County Sheriff Joe Berlin said, “this is one of the most disturbing cases of abuse and neglect of vulnerable persons that we have ever worked.”

“JCSD investigator Denny Graham has been painstakingly investigating all of the components of the crimes committed by Karen McCarty and Joseph McCarty,” added Berlin. “The term ‘horrific’ doesn’t even begin to describe the physical conditions of the two victims in this case...”

Full Article & Source:

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Judge sentences former public guardian to jail time, restitution for embezzlement

by Elizabeth Larson
LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – On Monday a judge sentenced a former Lake County Social Services employee to jail time, probation, restitution and community service for a case involving the theft of more than $13,000 from people under conservatorship, with some of the thefts including COVID-19 relief funds.

During the brief Monday afternoon sentencing, Judge Andrew Blum passed the sentence on 45-year-old Lakeport resident Susan Marie Marlowe.

Marlowe previously worked as a deputy public guardian and deputy public administrator for Lake County Adult Protective Services, which is part of Social Services.

In August, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office arrested Marlowe following a four-month-long investigation.

The sheriff’s office said Lake County Social Services reported the theft of debit cards from one of their offices at the start of April 2021, about three weeks after Marlowe’s employment ended with the county.

Those debit cards were issued as part of the economic impact payments to individuals who were under conservatorship with Social Services. A total of 21 of the cards, each with a value of $600, were reported missing, authorities said.

During the investigation it was determined Marlowe had access to the debit cards. Investigators also found that Marlowe had taken seven large withdrawals totaling $12,400 from the bank account of one of her conservatees. Authorities said Marlowe used fake invoices for repairs that didn’t occur to the conservatee’s home to take the funds.

A March complaint the District Attorney’s Office filed against Marlowe included five counts: elder abuse, embezzlement by a public officer, embezzlement, larceny and identity theft.

Through a plea agreement, Marlowe pleaded to the complaint’s count two, felony embezzlement by a public officer, with the rest of the counts dismissed with a Harvey Waiver so the court could consider the conduct in those counts in rendering a sentence. “This is especially important for restitution issues,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Rachel Abelson told Lake County News.

The plea agreement called for probation and a maximum of 120 days in county jail. “The decision of jail time was to be left open to the court if the court accepted the plea agreement,” Abelson said.

The Lake County Probation Department report recommended probation and 20 hours of community service, but no jail time, which Abelson argued against during the hearing. She said later she suspected no jail time was an oversight.

Pointing out that Marlowe had been in a position of trust as well as the amount of money taken, Abelson said she’d seen petty theft cases receive significantly more jail. She asked for the court to sentence Marlowe to 120 days in jail.

Defense attorney Sterling Thayer said the Probation Department isn’t shy about recommending tougher sentences, adding that petty theft cases involving people with records of repeated theft often do get more jail time.

However, Thayer argued that Marlowe’s case was an “isolated incident” and she wouldn’t err this way again. He said she was apologetic, realized what she did was wrong and has guaranteed she will pay restitution.

“Essentially she made a mistake and this is the best way to make amends,” to allow her to be on probation so she can pay people back, said Thayer, adding that putting her in jail will jeopardize her employment and her ability to pay back what was taken.

Judge Blum didn’t accept Thayer’s argument. “I was shocked that I saw Probation doesn't recommend that I give her any jail time,” he said, adding he didn’t agree with that recommendation.

As to whether jail time jeopardized Marlowe’s employment, “The fact that she stole from her last employer might do that too,” said Blum.

He said Marlowe was in a position of trust and stole COVID-19 relief money. “This is completely appropriate to give her a significant amount of jail time.”

Blum said the amount of money taken was large enough to justify a prison sentence, but Marlowe had no previous criminal record, which counted in her favor. He wanted her to pay restitution and said sending her to prison would make that more difficult. Blum also found she has the ability to pay fines and fees.

Blum sentenced Marlowe to two years formal probation and 20 hours of community service, pursuant to the plea agreement, and ordered her to serve 120 days at the Hill Road Jail. She did not previously serve any jail time so has zero time-served credits.

The judge asked Marlowe if she understood and accepted the terms.

Marlowe, who attended the sentencing via Zoom and appeared to be sitting in a vehicle, asked if she was eligible for an alternative work program or home detention.

Blum said those are the sheriff’s programs and so up to that agency, not the court. Thayer said he believed she was eligible for those programs.

In addition to the other terms of her sentence, Blum ordered Marlowe to pay fines and set her turn in date to the Hill Road Jail for 9 a.m. July 27. She also has to report to the Probation Department on Friday.

At Abelson’s request, Blum set an Aug. 3 restitution hearing for Marlowe’s victims.
Full Article & Source:

Disbarred Temecula attorney sentenced to probation for theft schemes

By City News Service

RIVERSIDE — A disbarred Riverside County attorney who stole money from clients and a nonprofit organization was on felony probation Monday for schemes uncovered while he was serving as trustee of an estate.

Edward John Nowakoski, 69, of Temecula pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of grand theft under a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office. In exchange for his admissions, prosecutors dropped four related counts.

Superior Court Judge William Lebov at the Riverside Hall of Justice imposed the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense — three years felony probation. The judge also ordered him to pay victim restitution in the amount of $562,854.

Nowakoski was disbarred by the California Bar Association on Sept. 22, 2021, losing all privileges to practice law in the state.

According to the D.A.’s office, the defendant specialized in trusts and estates, and after one of his clients died in 2016, he “transferred a significant portion of the estate funds to his own accounts, instead of disbursing it to the client’s family as directed in the trust.”

Over the ensuing two years, he used the money to cover personal expenses and helped pay for a friend’s education, prosecutors said.

At the same time, Nowakoski served as treasurer of the Southwest Riverside County Bar Association. During the sheriff’s investigation into the probate fraud, it was learned that the defendant had been siphoning membership funds out of the SWRCBA and using them for his own purposes, according to the prosecution.

Nowakoski was removed from his role as treasurer after he was disbarred and the criminal investigation was underway.

The defendant had no prior documented felony or misdemeanor convictions.

He had been practicing law since 1987.

Full Article & Source:

14-year-old Chico teen arrested for attempted murder after assault on elderly woman

by Adam Robinson

Outside Chico High School, where students reportedly have tampered with and stolen items from the school's bathrooms as part of an online trend. (KRCR)

CHICO, Calif. — A 14-year-old teenager was arrested in Chico on Friday following a reported assault of an elderly woman at the Chico High School.

Chico Police said the high school's custodial staff found a severely injured 71-year-old woman at the athletic stadium, off of Warner Street, at around 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning.

The elderly woman regularly used the school's track for exercise, according to investigators. They determined the victim was exercising on the track roughly an hour after the high school commencement ceremony on June 2 when they were pursued and attacked from behind by a suspect with a large, bludgeoning weapon.

Police said the suspect fled the area and left the victim incapacitated on the grounds until she was found the next morning. 

Investigators determined the suspect to be a 14-year-old boy. On Friday, at around 2:30 p.m., police found and arrested him for attempted murder.  

Full Article & Source:

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Judge hands over operations of Woodland nursing home, for now

by Lori Comstock

A state Superior Court judge has turned over operations of a long-troubled Andover nursing home into the hands of a receiver, citing immediate concerns over the health and safety of the state's most vulnerable residents.

Judge Frank DeAngelis' decision is the latest in a string of major moves by the state's top officials to ensure the safety of residents at Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center after surveyors twice in April and in early May found that conditions at Woodland had only gotten worse. Woodland has been on the radar of federal and state officials since police discovered 17 bodies in a makeshift morgue at the height of the pandemic in spring 2020.

The facility was visited often by surveyors, who warned that negative actions would take place if compliance wasn't met. 

DeAngelis appointed Allen Wilen, a partner at the business advisory firm EisnerAmper, after a court hearing Friday on whether Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center could continue caring for its 366 residents.

Wilen will step into the role temporarily until a final hearing takes place on July 7.

Gov. Phil Murphy and officials with the New Jersey Department of Health petitioned the courts last week to employ Wilen to take over the facilities' finances, to retain staff and maintain proper services for residents. Officials pressed the immediate need for intervention, stating that despite actions by federal and state officials, no systemic improvements had been made.

Attorneys representing Alliance Healthcare Holdings, which operates Woodland, and the owners of the property who lease the building to Alliance, known as BNJD Mulford Property, did not deny allegations raised by the Health Department with respect to the health and safety of residents, DeAngelis' decision said. Instead, they argued that the only harm was caused by the state's refusal to recognize a comprehensive remedial plan that they were aware of "before they ran into court seeking emergent relief."

BNJD said it had a signed agreement from co-owner Louis Schwartz removing him from the facility's license and had also executed an agreement with R&R Management Services LLC to take control of the facility's operations. The appointment of a receiver, the attorneys contended, was not appropriate because they had a plan in place that would have led to a comprehensive plan of correction.

Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center in Andover Township

But DeAngelis said during arguments on Friday that attorneys for BNJD "confirmed that the alleged agreement was just a proposal."

"The Court finds that the harm that threatens the residents of Woodland substantially outweighs any threat of any potential hardship that defendants may face through the appointment of a temporary receiver," DeAngelis wrote.

The state Department of Health issued a statement on the judge's decision, noting that Atlantic Health System, which was appointed as monitor in March, will work with Wilen to manage the daily operations at one of the state's largest nursing homes, once called Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II. 

Medical workers move a patient from Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center II, in Andover N.J., April 19, 2020.

“The receiver will ensure that employee paychecks are processed and staff retention policies and bonuses are implemented and will work with the state and other long-term care facilities to facilitate job placement for qualified individuals,” Wilen said in the statement.

Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman said the judge's decision recognized the "unprecedented gravity" of the situation.

In back-to-back filings on March 26, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ordered a halt of funds to the Medicare-reliant facility as the state revoked the nursing home's license.

Robin Ford, the state Health Department's deputy commissioner of health systems, said in court records that Woodland made no efforts to bring the facility into compliance, stating that residents were in immediate and serious risk of harm. Under the order, residents will need to be transferred to another facility by Aug. 15.

The judge noted that due to the termination of Woodland's agreement with CMS, there is a risk the facility will lose staff and have insufficient funds to continue operation in less than 60 days. 

A member of the New Jersey National Guard walks out with an employee of Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.

The risk of insufficient funds is coupled with concerns that the facility is nearing financial distress and is at risk of needing bankruptcy protection, state officials said in their court filings. The facility, the court records show, has a negative cash flow, limited borrowing capacity and projected required capital expenditures. 

"The financial issues coupled with the management issues continue to put the residents at risk of harm," DeAngelis wrote. "It is clear to the court that appointment of a temporary receiver is necessary for the protection of Woodland's current residents."

Full Article & Source:

D.C. lawyer disbarred in Md. for continuing to practice law while suspended

By: Madeleine O'Neill
a man in a suit and tie
“Ms. Ekekwe persistently violated the two suspension orders,” Judge Steven B. Gould wrote in a 21-page opinion. “In doing so, Ms. Ekekwe effectively deprived (her client)—who was battling for custody of her son—the benefit of counsel.” (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Maryland’s Court of Appeals this month disbarred a D.C. lawyer who continued representing a client in a custody case after she had been suspended from practicing law in Maryland.

The high court agreed unanimously that Olekanma A. Ekekwe had “undeniably injured” her client and misrepresented her status as an attorney to both the client and a judge.

“Ms. Ekekwe persistently violated the two suspension orders,” Judge Steven B. Gould wrote in a 21-page opinion. “In doing so, Ms. Ekekwe effectively deprived (her client) — who was battling for custody of her son — the benefit of counsel.”

The court found that disbarment was appropriate because Ekekwe’s misconduct included intentional dishonesty and the unauthorized practice of law. Ekekwe has also been disbarred in D.C., records show.

Ekekwe could not be reached for comment. A phone number listed online for her D.C. law practice is no longer active.

Ekekwe had been a lawyer in D.C. since 2002 and in Maryland since 2010, according to the court’s opinion. In June 2019, she was suspended for three years in D.C. after the District of Columbia Court of Appeals found she had violated rules related to competence, diligence, communication, safekeeping property and declining or terminating representation.

In October of that year, Ekekwe’s law license was suspended in Maryland on a petition from the Attorney Grievance Commission that was based on the misconduct finding in D.C.

Even after her law license had been temporarily suspended, Ekekwe continued to represent a pro bono client she’d been assigned through the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, according to the opinion. Although Ekekwe had not entered an appearance in the client’s case, she represented the woman at an emergency hearing in November 2019 and did not inform her client, the judge or opposing counsel that she had been suspended, Gould wrote in the opinion.

In January 2020, Ekekwe again appeared in court in connection with the custody dispute. Under questioning from a judge, Ekekwe said she was “assisting” in the case and making just a “temporary appearance.” The judge postponed the hearing and referred the case to bar counsel, according to the opinion.

Ekekwe repeatedly failed to respond to letters from bar counsel before claiming that her suspension had not yet been active at the time of the November 2019 emergency hearing and that she had appeared at the January 2020 hearing as a paralegal, rather than a lawyer.

“Ms. Ekekwe’s paralegal theory strains credulity,” Gould wrote. “The Women’s Law Center appointed an attorney, not a paralegal, to represent (the client). Upon their suspension from practicing law, lawyers do not magically transform into paralegals imbued with the authority to represent clients.”

A hearing judge found no mitigating factors in Ekekwe’s favor. Ekekwe failed to appear at a June 2021 evidentiary hearing about her alleged misconduct.

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals also disbarred Ekekwe in January. The Court found that Ekekwe, who is referred to in the opinion as Ekekwe-Kauffman, had recklessly misappropriated funds belonging to four clients, among other violations.

“Ekekwe-Kauffman’s handling of entrusted funds evinces practically all of the hallmarks of reckless misappropriation,” the D.C. high court found.  “She commingled funds between her trust and operating accounts repeatedly and indiscriminately. She likewise moved money among her personal, business, and trust accounts, haphazardly covering shortfalls in each account by drawing on the balance of the others.”

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Fla. medic arrested, accused of punching elderly patient in head

Polk County Fire Rescue members had restrained the 67-year-old disabled patient on a gurney when Matthew Mullins struck him, police say 

By Leila Merrill

BARTOW, Fla. — Paramedic Matthew Mullins was arrested Tuesday on a charge of felony battery. Police say he punched a handicapped patient in the head for being uncooperative.

The Bartow officers responded to a call for assistance by Polk County Fire Rescue. When they arrived on the scene, the officers found EMS providers treating a 67-year-old physically handicapped patient with Parkinson's Disease. The providers said the patient needed to be transported to a hospital.

As the patient continued to be uncooperative, four people put him on a gurney and restrained him. Officers say that is when Mullins had a knee on the patient’s chest and punched his forehead.

They said that he said something like, “'I'm from Combee. We don't play that.'"

Officers ordered Mullins to remove himself.

The patient was transported, and investigators said that the patient did not sustain injuries from Mullins’ actions.

Police and fire department members have said that the restraint method was in excess. Detectives found that Mullins' actions were "not in self-defense or medically necessary." They said the victim was not physically threatening anyone when he was punched.

After a warrant for Mullins’ arrest was issued Friday, he turned himself in on Tuesday.

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Monday, June 6, 2022

Wendy Williams’ Attorney Accuses Wells Fargo of ‘Improprieties,’ Identity Theft After Financial Guardian Is Appointed

The talk show host has been in dispute with Wells Fargo for months

by Sharon Knolle

Wendy Williams (The Wendy Williams Show)

An attorney for Wendy Williams has accused Wells Fargo of “improprieties” including identity theft after a New York judge appointed a financial guardian over the talk show host’s finances on Thursday.

It’s the latest development in the battle that began with Wells Fargo freezing Williams’ bank accounts in February and requesting a hearing from the New York Supreme Court to determine if the TV personality could legally be considered an “incapacitated person.” In March, a temporary guardian was appointed, despite attorney La’Shawn Thomas’ insistence that her client is of sound mind.

“Please be advised that Wendy is not in agreement with the appointment of a financial guardian by the court. Wendy has been very clear that she does not want a financial guardian to tell her what she can and cannot do with her money, Wendy feels that she is capable of hiring her own financial advisors who work for and report to her and not to the court,” Thomas told TheWrap on Friday. 

Turning the tables and calling out the financial institution, Thomas added, “We believe that this story has been put forth in an attempt to lessen the public outcry and regulatory scrutiny mounting around Wells Fargo due to their actions. We have complaints pending before multiple regulatory bodies regarding the improprieties surrounding this case, from a breach of the patient-doctor privilege to identity theft and we will of course be working with Wendy should she decide to appeal the court’s decisions.”

A representative for the bank declined to comment on Friday, but told TheWrap back in February, “Wells Fargo’s priority is the financial well-being of Ms. Williams and the preservation of her privacy. As we have expressed to the Court, Wells Fargo is open to working with Ms. Williams’ counsel to release funds directly to her creditors for bills historically and regularly paid from her accounts.”

In a March phone interview with “Good Morning America,” Williams said she was “absolutely” of sound mind. When asked why people might believe she was not, Williams explained, “Well, you know when people want control of their accounts, they say anything, including something crazy like that about me.”

In February, Sherri Shepherd was named as Williams’ replacement on her syndicated daytime talk show. Due to ill health, Williams was unable to carry on hosting “The Wendy Williams Show,” which is now in its 13th season.

After the 2016 revelation that Wells Fargo had created millions of fake bank accounts for customers without their knowledge, the Federal Reserve took the unprecedented move in 2018 of limiting the bank’s assets and also demanded resignations from the Wells Fargo board. “We cannot tolerate pervasive and persistent misconduct at any bank,” Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said in a statement at the time.

The Hollywood Reporter first reported the financial guardian appointment.

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Disbarred CT attorney who accused judge of favoring Jewish people expected in court today

by Lisa Backus

Disbarred attorney Nickola Cunha will appear Monday in state Superior Court in Middletown after a judge ordered a state marshal to take her into custody for failing to show up at previous appearances.

MIDDLETOWN — A disbarred attorney who to failed to show up for a May court date to address her disbarment and her use of client funds will appear before a judge Monday after being taken into custody at a Wallingford restaurant over the week.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher disbarred former Hamden attorney Nickola Cunha earlier this year after she filed a motion, requesting a family court judge be removed from a pending divorce case because he “showed bias in favor of Jewish litigants and the disabled,” court documents said.

Cunha was slated to appear before Moukawasher in mid-May to provide a trustee with a list of client addresses and phone numbers and to deal with client funds that officials claimed she had inappropriately kept, court documents said. Cunha failed to show up, prompting the judge to issue a capias warrant, ordering state marshals to take her into custody to guarantee her appearance in court.

The deadline for the capias warrant was extended several times, court documents show, before Moukawsher ordered Cunha taken into custody on May 18. She was spotted at a Wallingford restaurant on Friday and taken into custody by a state marshal, according to the Hartford Courant.

Cunha is scheduled to appear Monday in state Superior Court in Middletown.

The state’s Chief Disciplinary Counsel Brian Staines submitted documents on June 1, claiming Cunha had inappropriately taken $78,000 from an accident settlement for a client after she had already withheld her $96,000 fee for handling the case.

Staines also said in the documents that Cuhna originally told the judge she took $30,000 from the client’s accident settlement to pay for previous pro bono work, but “failed to clarify throughout the hearing that the actual amount she took was $78,000.”

“She had no authority from the client to take this money,” Staines wrote in the filing.

Cunha was disbarred in January after Moukawsher ruled she had made “empty and malicious claims,” alleging another judge was engaged in a Judaism-based conspiracy and protected child sexual abuse as part of her representation of a Glastonbury woman engaged in a dissolution of marriage case.

In late April, as part of the ruling, Moukawsher ordered Cunha to turn over her clients’ contact information, along with active and pending files to a court-appointed trustee. The judge noted at the time that a recent withdrawal of $30,000 from a client’s account may have been illegal and required an audit.

Cunha turned over the information for three clients on May 13, according to the trustee who was appointed by the court after her disbarment. But Cunha failed to supply complete information for several other clients, court documents said. The trustee is also looking for financial information for some clients and what Cunha did with their retainers, court documents said.

Ben Lambert contributed to this story.

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Home aide shortage threatens care for developmentally disabled Arkansans

By Benjamin Hardy and Juliet Schulman-Hall

In December, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced a plan to bring relief to thousands of families stuck on a waiting list for Medicaid-funded services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Under the governor’s plan, Arkansas will spend an additional $37.6 million each year to expand a program that pays for direct care workers and other services that help developmentally disabled people stay in their homes or in a community-based setting, as an alternative to institutionalization. These home and community-based services are sometimes called “waiver” services because they are funded through a waiver agreement between federal Medicaid authorities and the state. About 5,000 clients are now on the Arkansas waiver program.

The governor has said all of the roughly 3,200 families now on the waitlist – some of whom have been waiting for more than a decade – should be served by June 2025. Yet the plan may run into a problem. Arkansas, like many states, is facing a shortage of direct care workers, the frontline staff who help disabled, elderly and other clients with daily activities like eating, bathing, getting dressed and using the bathroom.

Teresa Dodson, 49, is the primary caregiver for her 22-year-old son, Nathan, who has autism and requires around-the-clock supervision.

“The governor has been releasing more of the waitlist people to start receiving coverage services,” she said. “That’s fabulous. It’s not going to help us families if they can’t find staff. And the more people we release off of that waiver waiting list, the more people that need staff.”

From 2017 to 2020, the number of nursing assistants, home health aides and personal care aides in Arkansas dropped slightly, from about 41,000 to about 39,000, according to PHI, a national nonprofit that advocates for direct care workers. The workforce likely decreased further over the past two years, fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and high demand for low-wage workers in other sectors.

Direct care workers are typically paid minimum wage – or close to it – to perform physically and emotionally demanding work. Arkansas’s minimum wage is $11 an hour.

Leaders of home and community-based service providers say finding workers has become much harder over the last year and a half. In January 2021, Easterseals Arkansas had about 14 openings for direct care workers, according to Ron Ekstrand, the CEO of the Little Rock-based provider. By April of this year, it had 52 openings. (Easterseals employs about 250 direct care workers total.)

“There’s something wrong with a system in which we can’t find enough people,” Ekstrand said.

Some help is on the way. In February, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) announced a $112 million “workforce stabilization incentive” for providers of home and community-based services. Organizations serving developmentally disabled Arkansans will receive about $52 million for worker retention and recruitment, according to DHS spokesman Gavin Lesnick. The remaining $60 million has gone to providers that serve elderly people.

The funding is part of the American Rescue Plan, the federal pandemic relief package signed by President Biden in 2021. The bill provides another $12 million for technology initiatives and $27 million for renovation and construction projects for both groups of Arkansas providers, to be disbursed later this year.

Providers say the one-time money is desperately needed, but it won’t solve their long-term workforce problems. And with the state opening up new waiver slots, families who have been waitlisted for years may still find themselves waiting for services.

Syard Evans is the CEO of Arkansas Support Network, a provider with offices in Springdale, Fort Smith, Camden and Jonesboro. Currently, the organization “does not have the necessary resources to support the clearing of the waiver waiting list,” she said.

As of mid-May, Evans said, almost 40 individuals who had been referred to Arkansas Support Network for services were facing delays in receiving help due to the staffing shortage.

Low wages, tough jobs

Before the pandemic, Evans said, Arkansas Support Network typically had between 85 and 100 job openings a month and about 120 applications. The numbers began to worsen in early 2021. By April of this year, the organization had 182 open positions and just 90 applications.

When employers in other sectors struggle to find workers, they typically increase their starting pay. Providers of home and community-based services don’t have that option.

“Fast food can add 50 cents to every combo meal and generate additional revenue to raise their minimum wages to $15, $16, $17 an hour – we cannot. We’re locked into state Medicaid reimbursements,” Evans said. “We do not have the ability to adjust our pricing or what we’re being paid or what we’re able to bill.”

Starting pay for a direct care worker at Arkansas Support Network is $12 an hour but increases based on education and experience. On average, the direct care workers she hires make $14 an hour, Evans said.

The problem of recruitment predates the pandemic, she said.

“It is a field that has been underfunded and under-resourced from the beginning,” Evans said. “In the mid-’90s, there were organizations that were putting out reports talking about the collapse of the industry if we cannot find a sufficient workforce.” The labor shortage created by the pandemic “looks like it potentially could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

Ekstrand said Easterseals participates in an employee retention credit program from the federal government that allows it to pay direct care workers $15 an hour and provide some paid time off and benefits. But the federal program is temporary, and it’s not clear Easterseals can keep paying $15 an hour when it goes away.

“We can’t keep doing it if [Medicaid] reimbursement rates don’t go up,” Ekstrand said.

Ekstrand said he believes many people would enjoy direct care work if they could make a decent living doing it.

“There are people who are wired in a way that they are caregivers by nature,” he said. “But they look at that starting pay and the benefits, and they see these other competitive offers, and they’re like, ‘I’ve got to put food on my table. I gotta pay my rent.’ And so, we’ve got to become more competitive with what we’re offering.”

Low pay, and the high turnover that comes with it, can also mean a lower quality of care for families.

For the past four years, Teresa Dodson has been Nathan’s only caregiver – a decision she made in an attempt to address behavioral problems her son had developed at school, Dodson said. Nathan’s behavior has since improved, and Dodson recently started bringing a direct care worker into their home for a few hours each week. But she worries that the worker will leave just as Nathan grows to trust her.

“This [direct care worker] has been hired to come work with [Nathan for] $11 an hour. She can’t survive on $11 an hour. So about the time that my son gets used to her … I have absolutely no doubt she’s going to go find a better-paying job,” Dodson said.

Dodson, who lives in Hot Springs, is a paid caregiver herself. Like many parents of adults with developmental disabilities, Dodson gave up guardianship of her son when Nathan turned 18 so that she could be compensated by Medicaid through a provider organization. (Her husband remains Nathan’s legal guardian.) Although Nathan requires around-the-clock care, she said, the provider can only pay her for up to 60 hours per week.

Dodson’s new direct care worker is now in the home for about 8 hours weekly. “I had to reduce the hours that I’m getting paid by the amount of hours that she is working. So if she works 10 hours a week, I’m only allowed to bill for 50 hours a week,” she said. The worker’s hours are also constrained, Dodson said, because she has three clients but is not allowed to work more than 40 hours total each week.

Dodson said the situation was “ludicrous,” considering Nathan requires 24/7 care. “It’s just very frustrating that, because of how little [the provider] is getting paid, they can’t pay me for what my son actually needs,” she said. Her emotional health has suffered under the stress, she said, but she can’t find time for therapy because she has to stay home with Nathan. (Click to continue reading)

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Sunday, June 5, 2022

Georgia jury punishes senior care home in ant attack case

By Carrie Teegardin
A Gwinnett County jury this week awarded $2.5 million to the family of a 92-year-old woman who died after an ant infestation at her assisted living facility left her with stings across her body.

Betty Perloe and her personal aide saw ants in Perloe’s room at Somerby Senior Living of Sandy Springs in 2018, and the aide reported the infestation to the staff. But the facility didn’t eradicate the ants, and within days ants were repeatedly found on Perloe’s body. The retired nurse died soon after with painful, pus-filled stings caused by fire ants, the family argued.

“Her last week was one of agonizing pain and it was miserable,” said Lance Lourie, an attorney who represented Perloe’s family in the trial.

Perloe’s death was among dozens of cases of abuse and neglect that were exposed in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Unprotected” series. The 2019 investigation found that poor care was commonplace at upscale, private-pay senior care facilities in Georgia. The series prompted state lawmakers to pass a slate of reforms in 2020 to improve safety at assisted living facilities and large personal care homes across the state.

The Gwinnett County State Court jury verdict in the Perloe case included $500,000 for wrongful death, $1 million for the suffering caused by the facility, and $1 million in punitive damages. The jury also awarded $300,000 for attorney fees and expenses.

“The jury did conclude that this hastened her death, and we presented evidence of that, and the jury also gave more money for what they put her through,” Lourie said.

In a statement to the AJC, Somerby Sandy Springs said the case was an “unfortunate and unusual event” that took place when the facility was under prior ownership. ”Any loss of a loved one is heartbreaking and, as professional caregivers, we understand the grief felt by this former resident’s family,” the statement said. Somerby said the facility’s current owners established new training, protocols and standards.

Prior to the ant attacks, Perloe had health issues and was on hospice care, but she was stable and able to visit with family and participate in activities with a high quality of life, said her son, Dr. Mark Perloe. He said he hopes that her case would prompt new requirements for better medical oversight at senior care homes.

Ants had been a problem at Somerby for at least two months before Betty Perloe was stung repeatedly, but the facility didn’t take adequate steps to get them under control, Lourie said. The expert testimony made it clear, Lourie said, that ants can be dangerous, especially for frail elderly people.

In an unrelated case, a man who was a resident at a Veterans Affairs long-term care facility in Atlanta died in 2019 after being repeatedly attacked by fire ants.

“Those problems have to be addressed,” Lourie said. “It’s more than a nuisance or irritation. It’s a threat to the health and safety of residents.”

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