Monday, June 2, 2008

Kay Roberts , An Example of a Guardianship/Conservatorship at Work!

By LARRY MITCHELL - Staff Writer

Did William Roberts deserve to have Judge Darrell Stevens and the Butte County Public Guardian's Office restrict his ability to visit his mother?

Just like the question of exactly why the county put Kay in a conservatorship and took charge of her life last year.

Last fall, the public guardian and court put Kay in a conservatorship, froze her bank accounts and removed all her possessions from her apartment and locked them up in storage.

An estimated $40,000 of her money was spent by the county. Also, Bill was told he couldn't visit his mother without the public guardian's approval, and even then, there would have to be a chaperone present.

Kay hasn't seen her son as much as she's wanted over the last year. "It's hard. It's really hard," she said, in tears, as she spoke with a reporter earlier this month. "My son is my only joy. Without him, I wouldn't have a life."

What's happened to Kay and Bill is an outrage, said Mel Jones, an old friend of the Roberts family. Jones, a retired Chico High School coach and former principal of Chico Junior High, said Kay has been caused a lot of worry, and her health has deteriorated.

"There was no need for any of this," he said. If only Judge Stevens had listened, or if someone else had taken the time to learn the truth, Kay could still be living in her own apartment, he said. "She'd would have been happy and a well woman today."

Kay Roberts' troubles began one afternoon late last June when she walked out of her apartment on The Esplanade to get her mail and tripped. She fell, injuring her arm and shoulder.

An ambulance took her to Enloe Medical Center, where she was treated. After she spent a couple of nights in the hospital, it was recommended she go to a convalescent hospital for rehabilitation.
Although Kay lived alone, she had people looking after her. There was Ruth Hetherington, her good friend of 50 years, who lived in an apartment next door. And there was Jones, as well as Kay's 52-year-old son, Bill.

When Kay fell, Bill was left to deal with the emergency. After Kay was released from Enloe, he decided to have his mother admitted to Riverside Convalescent Hospital for physical therapy.

Bill said on a Friday he was informed that in three days, his mother would be a private-pay patient at the rate of between $4,000 and $5,000 a month.

In the meantime, Bill said he arranged to take his mother on the next Wednesday to look at a board-and-care home, which would cost less than the convalescent hospital.

Shortly after this, Jones returned from vacation and was surprised to find Kay in a convalescent hospital. Jones had her durable power of attorney, which he said gave him the right to make health-care and financial decisions for Kay.

Jones said he thought Kay could move back to her apartment if she had 24-hour care, and he arranged to have a woman and her husband, who'd helped Kay previously, provide that.

But when he told administrators at Riverside of the plan, they said Kay couldn't leave the facility without her doctor's permission.

Jones said he talked to Kay's physician, Dr. Attila Kasza, who he said told him that within a week, he'd draw up the paperwork so that Kay could go home.

A week later, Jones said he went to Riverside to take Kay to her apartment only to be told that the situation had changed: The public guardian had filed to put Kay into a temporary conservatorship, and now it was the public guardian's call whether or not she could move out of the nursing home.

Jones said he and Bill were shocked by this development. They hired attorney William Stuart III of Oroville, who advised them to quickly get Kay's funds out of her bank accounts because they were about to be frozen. But the advice came too late. The bank accounts were already under the control of the public guardian.

It's hard to see why the county moved to get Kay into a conservatorship, Jones said.

He said he believes staff at Riverside called the public guardian, and officials at that county office then contacted Dr. Kasza and got him to make a diagnosis of Alzheimer's and dementia. That provided the grounds for putting Kay into what is called a dementia conservatorship.

Jones said there'd been no talk of Kay's suffering from those illnesses until the public guardian stepped in.

Bill said he'd been to all of his mother's appointments with Kasza over the previous five years and that the physician had not mentioned Alzheimer's. Kasza might have said she had a bit of dementia, but that it was nothing extraordinary for someone her age, he said. She was not taking medicine for that problem.

As further justification for the public-guardian conservatorship, the county, in a court document, alleged "Mel Jones wasn't exercising his durable power of attorney" and that Bill had access to Kay's money and was reportedly using some of it for his own benefit.

Here's where the county got it all wrong, according to Jones, Bill, Kay and Hetherington.

It's true, they said, that Bill had access to his mother's money. But he was using it to pay her bills, and he was supposed to get a portion of it under an agreement made when the family home had been sold.

The county didn't bother to find out the facts, Jones said.If they'd asked, he said, he could have told county officials about the conversation that took place eight or 10 years ago when he and William (Kay's late husband) and Kay had a barbecue in the back yard of the Roberts' home on Sierra Vista Way.

"William hadn't been feeling too good," Jones said. "He had heart trouble and diabetes. He said, 'Mel, I want you and Kay to listen. I want Mel to see that you and Bill are taken care of. I want you to know that the house belongs to Bill.' "

William died not long after that. Kay and Bill continued living in the house on Sierra Vista for several years. Until Kay decided to seel the house and a mobile home was purchased for Bill, and with money from the sale of the house, an annuity was set up that would allow him to receive $700 a month.
Jones said the money would come into Kay's accounts each month, and he'd transfer some of it to Bill's account. In fact, the amount transferred usually was $500 or $600 a month, not $700, he said.
Jones said it was ridiculous for the county to allege that Kay's money was at risk. If it wasn't being handled properly, why were the accounts growing each month, he asked. "We were saving money until the county stepped in."

Enterprise-Record intern Robert Hernandez contributed to this story.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part one of a three-story series.

Abridged for the entire article here in microsoft word .doc format =>>

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