Luck for Dorothy

A determined woman wrests control of her life back from court “protection.”
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Posted March 19, 2014 by JEFF PRINCE in News
Dorothy Luck visited the Texas Capitol last year to talk to legislators about guardianship abuses. Courtesy Latifa RingDorothy Luck visited the Texas Capitol last year to talk to legislators about guardianship abuses. Courtesy Latifa Ring

Dorothy Luck finally nabbed a break in her ongoing battle against a Tarrant County probate court that has seemed bent on bleeding her dry financially in an ironic attempt to protect her.

Judge Steven King signed an agreement this month that frees Luck from guardianship in a controversial case that removed her rights — including her ability to hire an attorney — even as it sucked an estimated $1 million or more of her savings (“Grabbing the Purse,” Sept. 4, 2013).

“I wanted you to be the first to know,” Luck told Fort Worth Weekly after receiving the news. “Your article had everything to do with it.”

Over the past six years, the Weekly has published several stories spotlighting the county’s two probate judges (King and Pat Ferchill) and their web of attorneys, investigators, bankers, social workers, and others who sometimes appear overzealous in their attempts to manage — and sometimes benefit from — the lives and bank accounts of elderly and disabled residents.

The first story (“Saving Katia,” July 2, 2008) chronicled Kathie Seidel’s attempts to overturn Ferchill’s decision to remove her adoptive daughter from the Seidel home, place her under guardianship, and heavily restrict her communication with relatives. The judge made the decision in a closed hearing without the mother’s input. Seidel is still fighting to get what her now-adult daughter wants: restoration of her rights or at least a more family-friendly guardian.

Seidel sees the recent action in Luck’s case, along with a couple of other recent guardianship reversals, as victories for everyone trying to protect the rights of wards, which is what the guardianship system is supposed to do.

“This is an important decision,” Seidel said. “They [probate courts] are trying to tidy up questionable rulings.”

Seidel credits several factors in addition to media scrutiny led by the Weekly. She and others have been storming the Texas Legislature in recent years, decrying the power that probate judges wield. Social networking has enabled a previously fractured population of defendants and advocacy groups to align themselves and wield more political power. One example is the creation of Guardianship Reform Advocates (GRADE), a statewide group that seeks to protect the disabled and elderly.

King and Ferchill are typically re-elected without facing challengers, although the activists have recently been threatening to recruit opponents for them in the future. Both judges have long held up Tarrant County as a model of guardianship efficiency. The backlash they’ve been feeling from high-profile cases is changing the way they’re running their courts, said an activist who asked not to be named because she has an active case in a local probate court and fears retribution.

“They’ve got other judges [across the state] looking at what they’re doing, and a lot coming out of Tarrant County doesn’t look good,” she said.

Another Weekly story (“In Whose Best Interest,” Sept. 8, 2010) described how the probate system ensnared an elderly woman named Mary. The judges and their guardianship workers say they initiate cases only as a last resort. But Fort Worth attorney Steve Katten, who works frequently in both probate courts and donates to local judges’ political campaigns, initiated the guardianship case against Mary. She had a large amount of money, and Katten wanted to park it at Wells Fargo Bank, the court’s bank of choice in many local guardianship cases.

At the time, Katten was board president of Guardianship Services Inc., a pseudo-governmental group of guardians who act as surrogate decision-makers for incapacitated people. Tarrant County funds them. One of Katten’s fellow board members was a Wells Fargo bank vice president.

The case served as another example of how a tight-knit, lightly regulated system enjoyed near carte blanche in deciding people’s fates. The judges appeared to scrutinize and lean heavily on defendants and relatives while downplaying the obvious conflicts of interest involving the court and its cast of players.

One of GRADE’s activists is Houston resident Latifa Ring, who called the Weekly last year to push for an investigation into Luck’s case. She applauded King’s recent decision to free Luck from guardianship but is still steamed that it took more than two years for it to happen, after many hundreds of thousands of dollars were taken from Luck.

“They haven’t told her how much money she has left, but it will all come out in the end,” Ring said. “I heard Judge King wanted out of it, and a lot of it had to do with your story. Too much pressure.”

Ring remains dismayed that probate judges, with little proof, can deem people as mentally incapacitated and take piles of money from them — and then reverse the ruling after all the lawyers and bankers have been paid.

“It exonerates everybody from what they’ve done,” she said.

Luck met with court-appointed attorneys to hash out the details prior to King’s decision, and she recorded the meeting. On the tape, one of the attorneys is heard saying, “The court is a little bit afraid of you.”

Later, when the tape wasn’t running, the same attorney elaborated. “He said, ‘That little rag [the Weekly] really did get their attention,’ ” Luck recalled.

Luck got sucked into the guardianship system after relatives sued her over a property dispute. Luck refused to settle the case and demanded a jury trial. Instead, her relatives’ attorney, who works closely with King’s court, threatened to put Luck in guardianship if she didn’t cooperate. Luck, a proud and independent woman of 85, wouldn’t bend. That began a courtroom drama that led to her being stripped of her basic rights and access to her money.

King prevented her from hiring her own lawyer and forced her to work with court-appointed attorneys whom Luck believed were working against her interests. The relatives said they never intended for Luck to be placed under guardianship and tried without success to stop the court from doing so. Luck accused King of running a “kangaroo court” filled with bullies and thieves.

“Some kid can steal an apple and get 10 years in jail, and yet this court can come and do this to me?” Luck said. “Where’s the legal system going? It’s pitiful.”

King’s decision wasn’t a complete victory for Luck. She was forced to put her house and car in trust and name a beneficiary, but she will continue to use both. Most importantly for Luck, King’s decision means she’ll be able to drive, vote, and control her own money. She suspects the estimated $1 million in court-related costs taken from her accounts is the tip of the iceberg and is awaiting a final accounting of her assets.

“What have I done to anybody to cause them to be so mean?” she said. “They have done things to me constantly by mail, by phone, by every means they can conjure up. For a judge not to give me a voice and then try to strip me of everything I’ve worked for since I was 15 years old is the most preposterous thing.”

Seidel said she appreciates the news media’s efforts on behalf of people like Luck but wishes the courts would act fairly without the added scrutiny.

“It is very sad that we have to go to the media for things to be done properly in court,” she said. “Nobody wants to go to the media. Who wants your life to be an open book for everybody? I just want to have my daughter back.”


32 Comments


  1.  

    NASGA celebrates this victory with Dorothy and we are happy she is one of the few able to get her life and what’s left of her assets back. We hope she joins the ranks of advocates all over the country working for reform.

    Guardianship was created to guard incompetent people and conserve their assets. It has become an appalling, yet accepted, practice for guardianship proceedings to devour the entire estate the proceedings are supposed to be protecting — and doing so with court approval.

    Join GRADE and the movement to reform unlawful and abusive guardianships in Texas and also NASGA work for reform nationally.




  2.  
    Advocate 4

    No one is immune to this happening in their lives – both disabled and elderly. Even when you have made an effort to be prepared, people going to court, report that judges routinely tear up POAs, and ignore family members who want to be involved with the protected person-
    ( their loved one.)

    TX. probate law requires that professional guardians are to make a ward aware/help them with options (living arrangements, other guardian choice, having rights restored.) However too many wards report that they are cut off from family and friends with severe isolation ( no mail that is not read by guardian first, NO phone calls, visits with no one without supervision, no visits with family on any holidays. ) One can imagine how very likely abuse is to occur by staff in the ward’s lving environment – knowing that the ward is so isolated; and the guardian is not concerned.

    Too often the solo thing that seems to drive guardian concern is protecting the provider
    ( nursing home) and the entire guardianship system( guardians, courts,and attorneys ). If wards are allowed access to those who love them, there will likley be complaints about the poor level of care in insit. See DADS( TX. Department of Aging and Disability) website and the qrs- quality rating system. It reflects so poorly on this state/guardians that nothing is done to close these offending providers who so often abuse ane neglect vulnerable people.




  3.  
    helensniece

    Thankfully Dorothy is finally FREE. It’s criminal that the cost to an innocent person is loss of her: $1,000,000.00. These courthouse terrorists must be STOPPED.

    The power of the press, ‘that little rag’ is the golden link to exposure and public pressure or Dorothy would have left this earth as a destitute ward of the state.

    See the Robert Thurman case in Davidson County TN. Robert’s mother refused to sell her property to developers – fear not the developers did what many others have done conserve the uncooperative land owner and heck why not conserve the landowners heir, her son also. And they did just that – the financial profit on these 2 cases is astronomical.

    This case is begging for investigation by: FBI – TBI – CIA – the White House – Secret Service – Navy Seals the full monty of Armed Forces all levels of investigators yet nothing is done, the cast of characters are still active and the pattern of operation continues nationwide.

    “He said, ‘That little rag [the Weekly] really did get their attention,’ ” Luck recalled.

    Luck got sucked into the guardianship system after relatives sued her over a property dispute. Luck refused to settle the case and demanded a jury trial. Instead, her relatives’ attorney, who works closely with King’s court, threatened to put Luck in guardianship if she didn’t cooperate. Luck, a proud and independent woman of 85, wouldn’t bend. That began a courtroom drama that led to her being stripped of her basic rights and access to her money.




  4.  
    Linda Kincaid

    Coalition for Elder and Dependent Adult Rights (CEDAR) has reported on abuse by conservators throughout California: Santa Clara County, San Bernardino County, Stanislaus County, San Joaquin County, Los Angeles County, Monterey County. In each case, false allegations were made against family in order to gain control of a wealthy individual’s assets. In each case, the conservator denied needed care and denied contact with loved ones, all while telling the court they were acting in their victims’ “best interest.”

    Just today, we watched another vulnerable woman in Monterey railroaded into conservatorship. Her dear friend of many decades was vilified by the predators waiting to pillage the $1M estate. The conservator made it clear that she intends to violate the conservatee’s right to visitation with her closet friends. Public exposure is the only thing that will stop the abuse.




  5.  

    It is with great appreciation to Jeff Prince and Ft. Worth Weekly to “act in the best interest” of the vulnerable people who are becoming victims of the “protection racket” by informing and educating the public of what occurs in guardianship proceedings in Tarrant County and many porbate courts throughout the state of Texas. The new and improved “Estates Code” certainly identifies who is better protected in guardianships. It’s been a perfect plan and set up to change the laws to provide the necessary protections for those who are appointed by the courts to legally steal, abuse, neglect and exploit the elderly & disabled, and their families now and into the future. Everyone is treated like property, their age or disability is now the nature of a valuable commodity. The worst of all this is that this story and many others are a look at what awaits us all as we continue to age, or should become disabled.

    As the Guardianship Industry continues to grow so will the Advocacy Organizations such as GRADE, NASGA, NOTEGA, CEDAR, ELDER ADVOCATES, BOOMERS AGAINST ELDER ABUSE, and many others throughout the country who are charged with doing what use to be expected for a person in need of a Guardianship. Today, Guardianships are needed by the courts and those chosen for profit, while the elderly and disabled need assistance to manage their affairs or to make decisions, they do not need to be used for financial gain which seems to be what Guardianship is all about under the guise of protecting a vulnerable personand or their estates. Too often those protected people and their estates are not protected by the bullies and theives who are appointed. There is no one other than “King” who can provide protections in guardianships.

    Dorothy never was deemed to be incapacitated, but “King” was left as the only person to free her and give her the “right to hire her own attorney” and to control her own life. So what was the purpose behind the Guardianship after all???

    Saving Katia is an issue that all parents of children with disabilities becoming adults should prepare for in determining the need of a guardianship. Katia, a young beautiful high functioning adult who seems to have become a long term care commodity to the guardianship program GSI in Tarrant County, in addition to her long term care provider agency where she is forced to reside in without her having a voice, choice or opportunity to explore her fullest potential. It seems that she is trapped for the need to increase head count for funding the guardianship program from local, state and federal funds. There are many young adults with disabilities who are being targeted for their federal and state benefits who receive long term care services paid by Mediciad and SSI. A guardianship should be determined by level of incapacitation and the need for protection, not by stereotype or by the stigma of the term “disabled” adult. We the taxpayers are paying for guardianship services that family and or friends could provide without any cost to our local, state or federal governments. Those who donate to the guardianship programs should investigate that their donations are not influencing head count for the many people who like Katia should have the right to be a member of their family, a member of society, have friends, fulfill thier dreams, and exercise their fullest potential for their quality of life. GSI advertises that they provide guardianship services for those who have no one willing or able to provide these services, this does not apply to Katia Seidel. She and many others have and will become the example for the need to explore other alternatives to guardianships for young adults with disabilities and their families. What has happened to HER is unfair and unjust.

    GRADE advocates for the people who are victimized by guardianship and judicial abuse in guardianship proceedings. They are never heard or seen in many cases after becoming a “ward” of a non-family guardian. We are not attorneys, we are lay people working to protect and preserve the rights of people with disabilities and the elderly who become trapped under the business of the guardianship industry for what seems to be for nothing more than profit.

    As for “That little rag” (the Weekly) we are grateful and appreciate your and Jeff Prince’s support in collaboration in our efforts of “truly advocating” for what is in the “best interest of the elderly and disabled” in Tarrant County and beyond. Your stories continue to prepare us all of what lies ahead into our own futures and our families if we may find ourselves in a probate court, whether if it is in need of a guardianship or one forced upon us in a court initiated guardianship such as in Ms. Luck’s case.

    There is needed reforms to the “new & improved” Estates Code that went into effect as of Jan. 1, 2014. It failed to include protections from the court appointed protectors. They are much better protected to protect their property- the person under guardianship called a ward and their estates. What has happened to Ms. Luck will no doubt occur to many more with what the Estates Code has to offer under the “guise of protection”.

    Texas residents needing assistance, contact us at http://www.guardianshipreform.org. or NASGA at http://www.stopguardianabuse.org

    Debby Valdez
    Member of GRADE
    Disability Rights Advocate




  6.  
    Frank, Chila, & Ceci Covington

    Well done, Jeff, exposing the guardianship pitfalls of elderly and disabled individuals. Dorothy is a sweet, strong, courageous, intelligent woman. Her “nightmare” is not over. She needs accounting and return of her hard earned money and freedom to enjoy the rest of her years unrestrained by the probate albatross. They only have to designate someone a “ward”, an elementary juristic task, and then freewheel through the courts by slinging the term “in the ward’s best interest”. Democracy, self determination and common good are values lost to fuel the greed of the guardianship industry. This may be a sign of societal morphing to a principle of wealth defining democracy. Yes, it’s all about the money. As news for those interested, we have recovered guardianship of our wonderful daughter and she is recovering from the trauma. We and she were not able to experience justice after the 4 year abdication, but we are again in a position to protect her from exploitation until the next secret hearing comes along. Hopefully, that won’t happen because we won’t have another $400,000 retirement savings left to pay fighting to get her back again. Not many family members are able, and we believe this is one central factor the guardianship “cartel” is counting on to maintain control over their “wards”.




  7.  
    Suzanna

    Facility that Guardianship Seivices and Tarrant Probate Court indicate they very satisfied to continue sending wards to. We found the rating at the site another commenter referred to above.. The facility had had the same serious problems for years.

    http://facilityquality.dads.state.tx.us/qrs/public/qrs.do?page=qrsICFMRProfile&serviceType=all_srv&lang=en&mode=P&dataSet=1&provno=003768&cgName=ICFMR&ctx=4427491

    Disabled and Ignored in Texas
    12:55 AM CDT on Saturday, November 3, 2007
    By BYRON HARRIS / WFAA-TV
    The Cimarron Living Center is now rated highly by state regulators despite complaints and violations.
    LEWISVILLE — When patients can’t speak for themselves, their stories are rarely heard.
    But records do speak, and a News 8 investigation found a story of lax regulation and abuse at privately-run intermediate care mental retardation facilities in Texas.
    A complaint against Cimarron Living Center in Lewisville alleged there were maggots inside the open wound of a patient’s head. “It was seeping,” said Tina Kohls, who worked at the Cimarron facility last summer.
    The patient was taken to Trinity Medical Center. Kohls and others familiar with the case were surprised that Cimarron let it develop. “It was bad,” Kohls said. “I walked away and I didn’t see him again.”
    The patient, who had terminal cancer, later died.
    Because of the maggots, Trinity Medical Center filed a complaint against Cimarron for letting the situation develop.
    The Texas Department of Aging and Disability—DADS—regulates Cimarron and facilities like it in Texas. DADS found Trinity’s complaint against Cimarron “unsubstantiated,” even though maggots were in the wound.
    “The evidence was not there to substantiate the charge,” said DADS spokeswoman Cecilia Fedorov.
    But the maggots were just one of the complaints filed against Cimarron since 2005, leading to questions of how well DADS regulates the facility.
    Family members and staffers also filed complaints about:
    • head lice in clients
    • client-on-client violence
    • a lost patient
    • workers having romantic relationships with clients
    • the theft of $3,500 from a client
    Last year, records show that one Cimarron worker who is a transvestite removed a client from the facility and attempted sexual contact with him. Investigators substantiated that complaint.
    News 8 asked the DADS spokeswoman if it is legal for staff members to take patients home. “I honestly—I don’t know,” Fedorov said.
    We sent Fedorov some complaints to review prior to our interview with her. She said she had not examined those documents. “This is not the information that was sent to me,” Fedorov said.
    Cimarron gets much of its income from the state and federal governments—as much as $95 per client per day.
    “I know that it could be so much better, and it’s just all about the dollar,” said a man who has a relative at the Cimarron facility. He asked News 8 to disguise his identity because he fears retaliation against his loved one.
    “No one ever comes to see them; they’re just dumped in there,” the man said. “Whatever care they get is what they get.”
    “I would not put anyone I know, or even my worst enemy there,” Kohls said. “They don’t deserve that treatment.”
    Cimarron holds 116 people. Tina Kohls, who was fired from her job at the facility late this summer, said there were times when only five staffers were on duty to keep watch.
    When News 8 visited, clients were largely unattended.
    “They’re just so shorthanded and so negligent that… there’s so many accidents, you just don’t know which way to turn,” Kohls said.
    Lewsville police records show officers were called to Cimarron 101 times in the last two years for disturbances, medical emergencies and other problems the staff could not handle.
    No one at the facility would talk to us.
    Diamondback Management in San Antonio runs Cimarron and 30 other facilities in Texas. They did not return our phone calls.
    “Sometimes our state loses sight of the fact that people that are in psychiatric facilities are people,” said Lee Spiller of the Texas Citizens Commission on Human Rights, who has been investigating abuse in the state’s psychological facilities for a decade. We showed him complaints against Cimmaron. He was surprised at the lack of information in the investigations.
    “You start wondering, well, ‘Gee. How many people have to get hurt before you start citing somebody?’” Spiller asked.
    There are 877 intermediate care facilities for the mentally retarded in Texas. The state has 73 people to inspect them.
    “I believe they’re shown what they need to see, and they don’t dig any deeper than that,” said the man with a relative inside the Cimarron facility. “I don’t think there’s really an interest in digging deep.”
    State records show that Cimarron was close to having its funding revoked at the end of last year. Now—despite the alleged problems—it gets a 90 out of a 100 rating on the DADS Web site.




    •  

      Disgusting, just another one of those Texas dumping grounds for the disabled.
      It’s like for profit guardianships, its all about making money off of the taxpayers and exploiting helpless people. Wonder how many have for profit guardians forcing them to live in such a place and forgetting about them.




  8.  
    SeanSimmons

    Thank you Jeff Prince. The exposure of the Weekly may be one of the few things that will help vulnerable people forced under professional guardianships. Online records show just how lucrative the guardianship game can be for both lawyers and guardians in Tarrant County.

    The United States has 3 branches of government for a balance of power. Probate judges can be seen before the TX legislature every session, introducing new legislation that will make the INDUSTRY of guardianship function easier and more secure. Although a senator or representative may introduce the bill, it is quite obvious who initated the idea – judges. What these laws do to an unsuspecting public is an entirely different thing.

    In a county that seems to be partial to secret hearings – so there is no due process, it costs $10,000 in security costs to even get into court to oppose rulings. This is in addition
    to paying your own attorney. Then the judge will probably assign the costs of the opposing attorneys fees to the ward/family as well. This is not the justice system the United States stands for .

    This is not what Tarrant County residents should expect from the Commissioners Court -which appears to give Guardianship Services Inc ( close business ally of the court) a quarter of a million dollars annually to do.




  9.  

    It is with great appreciation to Jeff Prince and the Ft. Worth Weekly to share these stories as no one is prepared for what occurs between the walls of the Tarrant County Probate Courts and many others throughout the State of Texas. The new and improved “Estates Code” certainly identifies who is better protected in guardianship proceedings. It has been a perfect plan and set up to change the laws to provide the necessary protections for the courts and those appointed by the courts to “act in their own best interest”. What is occurring seems to be the legalization of abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly and disabled, with additional abuse to their families in protecting them where the Guardianship is not. The alleged incapacitated person or the person under a guardianship are being treated as property, justified by codifying the guardianship laws into an “Estates Code”????
    Due to age or disability is now the nature of a valuable commodity. The worst of all this is that Dorothy’s story and many others are a look into the future of what awaits us all as we continue to age or should become disabled.

    What has happened to Dorothy is perfectly legal in the State of Texas under a Court Initiated Guardianship. In laymans terms a forced guardianship whether you are incapacitated or not and need a guardianship. What isn’t legal is abuse, neglect and or exploitation of an elderly person, child or a disabled person. Dorothy was never deemed to be incapacitated, quite obvious now that she has had her rights restored, including the right to hire her own attorney and to control her own life. At her age, this was not necessary at all. She is a victim of the very system designed to protect her from abuse and exploitation.
    Unfortunately there is no system to protect anyone from the court appointed predators.

    No one is prepared for what awaits them between the walls of the probate courts in Texas.
    Hopefully stories like this will prepare the public of the bullies and theives waiting for nothing more than profit and special interests, and to be fully aware that one thing for sure that rarely occurrs in Texas probate courts is “Justice”. It is not design for that. It is designed to make money off of our most vulnerable Texans now and into the future.




  10.  
    Roberta Smith

    Judge King was the judge in a lawsuit my family filed against my uncle. My uncle stole millions from our family and the judge knew it. He forced us to settle and we did – not because I wanted to – I would have taken it to a higher court but others in my family would not. My uncle used his power of attorney to put things in his name when my grandmother passed away and the judge knew it. He did not have her permission or her approval. He got away with it. Judge King is a crook. He is worse than the criminals on the streets because families depend on good judgement when they are in his courtroom and he gives them NOTHING!




    •  
      Birdy

      Hmm. This might explain how one of probate court judges can afford to amass an impressive collection of restored antique cars that was featured in the FW Star Telegram a couple years ago. I wasn’t aware that Guardianship Services is a quasi-governmental entity like MHMR of Tarrant County that both got substantial tax dollars to support their operations. No wonder MHMR of Tarrant County packed the board of directors of the 501(c)3 arm named Visions with so many people affiliated with Guardianship Services. The picture is getting clearer now. So maybe there were other reasons than was stated officially by MHMR executives for Visions, led by many Guardianship Services people on their Board, who to bestow the honor of being chosen as their Person of the Year at their annual fancy banquet …couple of the probate court judges referred to in these stories and the man controlling county dollars, the County Commissioners Court Judge himself. Many clients of MHMR of Tarrant County have been placed in a couple of nursing home facilities in recent years, practically turning one into practically an MHMR facility since there are so many mentally ill (not retarded) clients living there. I’m not sure about the details about how these folks ended up in a nursing home but these stories and connections raise questions about how relatively young and mobile individuals end up inside a nursing home when many of them either had their own apartments or appear capable of living independently instead of on hospital beds inside a nursing home. This caught my attention because I’ve seen reports that indicated MHMR of Tarrant County had received millions of dollars in federal grants to provide independent housing for those suffering with mental illnesses. In fact, it’s so large that MHMR of Tarrant County had created its own corporation to control the money and the apartment complexes that they built, own, and operate. Just really curious because I know of MHMR clients who came from pretty wealthy families but the parents are very old and sickly or deceased, many of them attended seminars promoted by MHMR or its affiliates about how to best leave their money so that their children wouldn’t be dependent on government programs to just get by but to have more security and options than those not fortunate enough to have parents with a lot of money.

      This story got me thinking about the people with mental illness again because the last time I really paid attention was a couple years ago when there was an uproar among some families of MHMR clients related to what appeared to be shady business dealing between MHMR leaders and one of the new state approved private HMOs name BRAVO Health, who was fighting with other companies to enlist Medicaid Plus eligible clients in the new state program for recipients with physical and mental disabilities. I recall that the State HHS suspended BRAVO’s operations after it had spent a lot of money in PR and big donations to MHMR affiliates who were pushing their clients and members to enroll with BRAVO Health. It seems that the costly suspension probably was due to MHMR executives’ failed attempt to take control of an independent nonprofit organization made up of and advocated for many MHMR clients, beginning with bullying the organization’s long-time and well-respected Director and their little Board and suddenly having Guardianship Services related people to take active volunteer roles with the organization and presumably get on the Board and take over control of the organization for MHMR since it appeared that MHMR executives may have deceived their business partner BRAVO Health into believing that the robust nonprofit and its members, assets , and good reputation belonged to them.

      BRAVO Health likely received the suspension when the HHS realized that the information it received from BRAVO Health upon which it based its approval for the HMO to “begin operation” include the false information from MHMR executives about the independent nonprofit. Although MHMR made a desperate last ditch move to help the HMO by suddenly breaking its contract with the nonprofit that effectively shut down the nonprofit since naturally MHMR was its biggest contracted revenue source, it was too late for BRAVO Health because by the time the state was satisfied with the representation by MHMR of Tarrant county and declared it “operationally ready” it had lost all its enrollees to other HMOs by default–along with it the millions spent on PR and donations to get influence in amassing the enrollees and expected return on its investment.

      Best I can tell no media ever looked into and reported on it , and it’s all been kept a secret as to how MHMR-TC settled the damages suffered by BRAVO Health, if any, and the breach of contract with the little nonprofit organization. I heard the long-tenured CEO quietly made a deal with its Board to take early retirement and was quickly replaced by his ambitious deputy and thus helping ensure that details of the scandal and other secrets are not exposed to the taxpaying public who might not be too happy and even demand some acountability from those given the public trust to help the disabled and needy…avoiding the exposure and reforms that a similar public agency JPS Health received several years ago.




      •  

        In 1997 the local legal community, social service agencies, and the Tarrant County Probate Courts began to talk about the need for persons to serve as guardians for non-elderly, incapacitated persons. Those younger persons potentially needing guardianship include persons with mental retardation(now respected as a person with intellectually & developmentally disabled) and head injury victims. Senior Citizens Services requested that United Way form a study committee to determine the best way for younger adults who need guardianship to be served. The committee, which was chaired by a member of the AAA/TC, recommended that there be one guardianship program to serve all age groups and that the existing guardianship program should be the program.

        A group of probate attorneys and the two Tarrant County Probate Judges, Judge Steve King and Judge Pat Ferchill, formed a Board of Directors and incorporated as Guardianship Services Inc. (GSI). Senior Citizen Services (SCS) agreed to transfer the existing volunteer guardian program to the new agency. Contracts that SCS had for guardianship with the AAA/TC and the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services transferred to GSI. In September of 2000, GSI was made the 47th partner agency of the Metropolitan Tarrant County United Way for funding beginning April 2001, and GSI has received funding through the United Way’s Community Inititiatives Fund. A contract with the Texas Department of MHMR has been secured to provide services for persons with IDD.

        According to the Articles of Incorporation the non-profit status of GSI’s purpose is the corporation is organized and operated to administer a program to train and provide volunteers to serve as the court appointed guardians of the person of incapacitated adults who do not have family members who are willing or qualified to serve in such capacities. Notwithstanding any other provsions of the Articles to the contrary, the corporation shall not conduct or carry out any activities not permitted to be conducted or carried on by an organization which is exempt from tax under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

        It has been within our experience by the numerous of people whom have contacted GRADE that the guardians assigned to their loved ones are paid certified guardians working for GSI. We have yet to receive a complaint about one of GSI’s volunteer guardians. The complaints we receive are family members trying to protect their loved ones from GSI’s certified guardians who islolate and confine their loved ones, restrict visitations, family is not allowed to have any knowledge of their elderly or disabled family members medical needs, their financial status, and most importantly are not allowed to protect their loved ones from GSI’s certified guardians. We have also discovered that APS does not act to protect the many elderly and disabled under a GSI guardianship or other guardianship programs. The protections for these populations relies on the only the courts. A process most family members cannot afford to undertake, resulting with no protections to elderly or disabled under third party guardians.

        In consideration of Birdy’s comment and the history of the intent of creating GSI and it’s purpose it appears that there is a severe lack of transparency and knowledge to the public of the funding streams and payments being paid to GSI for providing guardianship services. Guardianship services fees are paid to these type of programs by Mediciad funding, SSI or SSDI income of the person under guardianships and for those who have estates, payments of substantial amounts are also being paid for guardianship services fees to GSI and programs. It may be appropriate for those who in fact have no family or friends to act as a guardian. It is not appropriate for the taxpayers or estates to pay for these fees when the courts conveniently disqualify the family members and appoint third party guardians in favor of the courts own guardianship program. This practice is on the rise due to the takeover of the Guardianship Industry in all efforts to exclude family where in most cases there is no cost to be a family guardian, and is most likely the elderly and disabled person’s choice over and above a third party paid guardian or a “non-profit” guardianship program.

        According to the Articles of Inc. both Judges are listed as Board of Directors, along with probate attorneys currently practicing in both courts at the inception of GSI. They resigned themselves from members of the Board due to “CONFLICTS OF INTEREST”.

        There certainly seems to be deceptions of practices with the intent of providing services to the elderly & disabled and those with mental illness and their families in Tarrant County. Including the lack of oversight, monitoring and transparency from local and state government.




        •  
          Conservative

          Guess what? The CEO of MHMR Tarrant County Susan Garnett is listed as a Director on the Board of Guardianship Services. Checked the MHMR website today.




  11.  
    SeanSimmons

    I stand corrected.I am now told that the Tarrant County Commissioners Court contributes 3/4 of a million to Guardianship Services Inc. ( the court’s close business ally) annually.

    Commissioners Court, if there is not collaboration /financial gain for you here, you need to do a serious investigation . Show your objectivity. Taxpayers are paying for abuse and neglect that both the court and GSI put unsuspecting citizens through.




  12.  
    Sherrieblossom

    Way to go, Dorothy! You did it. You’re finally free of them. Now go sue the City so it doesn’t happen again! These judges and attorneys are out of control. They need to be stopped, and they need to be punished. They are nothing more than cheap thugs living off of other people’s money. They need to go to jail for what they have done to you and to others. And the City needs to ensure it never happens again.




    •  
      Sherrieblossom

      and sue the County, and the companies who the judges sit on the Boards for that have anything to do with this corrupt guardianship system. There are conflicts of interest going on, and all involved need to be investigated. These people are preying off anyone and everyone with money. You could be next if this isn’t stopped!




    •  
      LadyLeah

      Hi, Would you please connect me with anyone who would like to go after Judge Ferchill & Judge King and Attorney David Bakutis who all have lied and have conspired to take $86,000.00 + and counting… from my inheritance and they are about to continue this fraud and theft in a hearing next week on June 17th, 2014 @ 9:30 am – in Judge Patrick Ferchill’s Courtroom. They are just lying, cheating and stealing from me and disregarding all my factual evidence by allowing a “Summary Judgment” even though I have proof of MY FACTS they are ignoring & they are preventing me from a Jury Trial. They have kicked my and my minor daughter on the street we have no place to live and no money to survive after my mother gave me her home – they just took it from me & any hope of sustenance we could have had. Please contact me right away & refer as many people to me as possible. Thank You. Leah (936) 899-0313




  13.  
    Debra

    Birdy, consider contacting the GRADE website. http://www.guardsianshipreform.org
    Looks like you need to compare notes.




  14.  
    Laura

    Same thing just happened to a man in Richardson, Texas, here is the link to the story (http://www.myfoxdfw.com/story/25042491/judge-rules ). Looks like APS and the Probate Courts are legally exploiting these folks.




  15.  
    Advocate 4

    http://www.guardianshipservices.org/

    ” If there is no family member or friend suitable to serve as caregiver, or the caregiver has become too exhausted to continue in this role, Guardianship Services, Inc. becomes involved, either through its Guardianship or Money Management program.”

    Against probate code – when judges and guardians in Tarrant County repeatedly oppose giving guardianship to all family members or close friends ( with many different families), it makes sense that there is some motivation, on their part, that brings in dollars or covers up serious neglect or abuse.

    When estates such a Ms. Luck’s and many others are grabbed, the proceeds can be put into an 867 management trust. With this type trust, no funds can be spent that the government would otherwise pay for. That indicates that probate attorneys are protecting this money to payroll themselves. This means the taxpayer picks up the bill for the ward ( who could have paid their own way) being put into a medicaid nursing home .

    This is not a fiscally conservative move on the part of Republicans. I believe the probate judges in Tarrant County run on a Republican ticket ( although the one with the antique cars, used to be Democrat they say).




  16.  
    Giant Sperm Whale

    It is a wonderful thing when journalism serves the community in this way. I have to say that I read “Grabbing the Purse” only one time and will never forget that story for the rest of my life. It was quite the eye-opener and truly infuriated me.

    I wish there was a way to truly return Dorothy to where she was before the probate court grabbed her savings and ran, but I admire her strength in fighting the court system when most would have given up. Kudos to Dorothy and kudos to Jeff Prince.




    •  
      texasprobatevictim

      Whale, it only serves the community that reads the Fort Worth Weekly, or discovers this information on the internet. The population of the world should be educated to this predatory practice, since the same cronies of Texas guardianship abuse are in national and worldwide associations and committees to spread their gospel. And everyone should be aware that life snares await them, their families, and loved ones cleverly disguised as protective devices, and often associated with trusted agencies like United Way, AARP, etc. Since the government has failed to remedy this problem, the pressure needs to come from media. National media. World media. Let’s hope that Jeff Prince has opened the door for that and continues to do so.




  17.  
    Pattie

    Thank you Jeff Prince, for taking such an open minded approach to this closed door disgusting disguise of blatant thievery. Thank you for taking the scenario and laying it out there so that the facts were not misunderstood, so that the victims were given the respect they deserve and for telling a story that the main stream media couldn’t risk telling.

    I am so very proud of Dorothy. She was so strong through this, so pleasant and honorable even in the wake of all of this deceit and disgust. Dorothy never made her fight just about her either, Dorothy was just as absorbed in the situations of other victims and the impact these greedy people have had on all their lives.

    Jeff Prince’s articles on this “organized crime” needs to spread like wildfire. Send them to your loved ones, friends and acquaintances, leave no one out. Let’s be pro-active and stop these corrupt judges in their tracks. Tarrant County needs/deserves better representation than these greedy thieves; their power and control have molded their brains into thinking “what’s yours is theirs”. We wouldn’t stand for someone breaking into our home and stealing our possessions, and we shouldn’t stand for this nonsense either. Together we ALL need to make some noise.

    Again, I praise Jeff Prince for his professional articulation of a delicate situation and Dorothy and all other victims for their endurance and perseverance.

    God bless you all!




  18.  
    Lynne

    We had POA that my mother had given us and they wanted to give guardianship because the bank (same as trust!!!) would not honor the POA!!! So I became guardian. After a year, the bank and judge took that from me and gave it to an outsider.and now the bank will not tell the family how my mother’s funds are being spent. The guardian has told me that she would prefer me not to visit my mother and she also said my mother did not need family members visiting her. Something stinks with Judge King and all his cohorts. My parents are not rich. They have saved every penny and lived very frugal and judge King and his banksters think they can take all of their money for themselves.




  19.  
    Lynne

    Why didn’t someone run against judge King in the recent election?




  20.  
    Advocate 4

    Initially someone did run against King in 2014. Someone ( different political party) ran against Judge Ferchill in 2010. In spite of all the continued bad press they get …. It is very diffifult to unseat a POWERFUL, WELL CONNECTED Judge.

    Most people considering running know the possible pconsequences to their cases if they mount a challenge, lose, and want to continue working in probate courts. They also need a big budget to challenge the strong forces that work to keep the staus quo. Below, see the entrenched connections at the Star Telegram that helped Ferchill after he got a lot of negative attention in the media previously.

    http://www.fwweekly.com/2011/07/25/fw-star-telegram-is-the-spin-doctor/




  21.  

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  22.  
    eileen

    It is a shame that Dorothy lost so much of her hard-earned savings, but at least she regained her rights, and that is a rare and amazing feat for the guardianized. It shows what good journalism can do.
    Guardianization pretends to be about care and protection, but it really is about drilling the estates of the wealthy to line the pockets of the lawyers and other professionals in the guardianship industry.
    Much like Dorothy Luck, my mother was guardianized in a secret hearing that deliberately excluded her own attorney and her family. She did not have the required two doctors declare her incapacitated, nor did she have the required hearing to adjudicate her incapacitated. This kind o thing goes on across the country Her court-appointed attorney forfeited her 7th Amendment right to due process by dealing away those and other rights to thrust the case straight into the drawn out litigation for the appointment of a permanent guardian (while simultaneously placing a company with whom he had a close association in charge of her care). The resulting trial and associated ‘investigations’ cost over $125,000 (the highest invoices came from the court-appointed attorney), even though the family settled to avoid the high cost of a trial (that eventually happened anyway, once we found out what a guardianship was really all about). The trial to get her care back into the family cost another $100,000 dollars, although she was still not freed from the lucrative guardianship. Not one penny of that money went to her care. In two years, they went through two thirds of her life savings and only a small fraction of that money went towards reasonable care.
    Guardianships are geared to invite litigation because litigation is the fastest and best way to drum up excessive billings for the guardian and his/her lawyers. No matter what the outcome, the lawyers always win.
    Many of the lawyers involved in my mother’s case, including the now-enriched court-appointed attorney, admit that it started out ‘wrong’ (read: laws were broken), but none of them, not even one who is on an ethics committee, will do anything about it. They do not want to jeopardize that income stream!




  23.  

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