The elder abuse hotline runs round the clock in Los Angeles County. Twenty four hours a day, a social worker is available to take incoming complaints of abuse and neglect of elderly and dependent adults.
But not, apparently, if the abusing party is a conservator. During a call to APS last Thursday, a complaint was made that a local conservator was neglecting and medically abusing one of her wards in Pomona, California. The worker refused to accept the complaint, stating that APS does not take complaints of conservator abuse. The call was then transferred to the supervisor, Alejandro, who stated that the Welfare and Institutions Code blocks Adult Protective Services from following up on complaints of conservator abuse. Alejandro was unable to provide the relevant WIC and promised to call back after researching it. He did not.
But both Alejandro and his social worker spoke in error. A call to the Administrative Office of Los Angeles County Adult Protective Service today confirmed that there are no legal guidelines that would inhibit APS from taking and investigating a complaint of this nature. So why are the workers declining to take these calls?
Calls to Administration got some action, but not very many answers. A call center manager named Solomon assured me he would have someone take my complaint and offered to transfer me back to the Call Center. I told him I would call over myself, to see what sort of response another social worker provided.
Diana answered the call and informed me that APS does not investigate conservator abuse. She told me to contact the Public Guardian. When pressed, she went off the line and when she returned she told me she had been authorized to take this complaint. To wit:
In Redlands, a homeless man named Charlie Castle had been grabbed off the street by the mental health court officers and placed under a temporary mental health conservatorship. Private Conservator Melodie Scott petitioned to take over as conservator and was so appointed. She then put the individual into a long term nursing home which does not provide mental health treatment and proceeded to ignore him. The conservatorship appears to have been conceived in a grave conflict of interest. The attorney –Ryan Sheehan–representing the conservatee is, in fact, Melodie Scott’s lawyer. Castle has now been locked up for a year.
Apparently, Scott has a personal interest in Charles Castle. Castle recalls that, a couple of months before he was grabbed, Scott approached him on the street. She asked him if he would like her to “take care” of him. “No, ma’am,” he replied emphatically.
I had been contacted by a friend of Charlie Castle, who believed that the conservatorship had become abusive and that the conservator was neglecting Castle. The friend, a local schoolteacher, provided a picture of Charlie as someone who was intelligent, friendly and docile and, while somewhat eccentric, was able to manage his own affairs. Other members of the community, including Ken Stein, a director at the local YMCA and Pastor Craig at the Blessing Center, repeated the same perceptions of Charlie Castle.
“Charlie loves his freedom, “said Stein. “He marches to a different drummer and to lock him up would be a death sentence.”
According to the San Bernardino Court public records, Castle has never had any brushes with the law. According to all contacts, he does not pose a danger to himself or others.
All the way up the bureaucratic food chain, agencies mandated to protect the elderly and disabled are backing off from allegations of conservator abuse (http://www.activistpost.com/2012/03/guardian-crimes-get-cover-from.html). Reports to police go uninvestigated, District Attorneys pass on their obligations to prosecute, the state agencies, such as the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau in California (http://www.estateofdenial.com/2010/11/20/californias-professional-fiduciaries-bureau-appears-ineffective-in-its-mission/) seem to be paralyzed and unable to even reply to incoming complaints. The State Attorney General’s offices refuses to investigate, saying they don’t “do probate.”
Numerous complaints have been tendered to the FBI, from Florida to California. The FBI has never launched an investigation. When the GAO submitted a recent report on conservatorship abuse, the recommendations were seen to only eventuate in an increase in the numbers of people under the thumb of the State, rather than to address the inherent abuses that occur when a person loses all his rights and all access to his property (http://www.activistpost.com/2011/10/gao-pushes-to-share-incapacity.html).
Solomon has stated that he will institute better training among the social workers at Los Angeles County APS. One can only hope so.
This story was originally published by Veterans Today.