Sunday, September 27, 2009

Melodie Z. Scott Conservatorship Practice Raises Questions

By Janet C. Phelan as published in the Bernandino County Sentinel on Friday 09,25,2009

A local conservator and money-manager is back in court after the Department of Consumer Affairs declined to accept a proposed settlement agreement which would have provided her with a business license.

Melodie Z. Scott; founder and President of C.A.R.E., Inc, which is located at 25 E. State Street in Redlands, had applied for a professional fiduciary license in 2008, when licensure became mandatory under California law. A series of articles published in the Los Angeles Times, entitled “Guardians for Profit—When A Family Matter Becomes A Business” had raised a general alarm as to the business practices of conservators for the elderly. Melodie Scott was featured in the first of the Times’ series, which was published in November of 2005.

Blacks law dictionary defines a conservator as a ‘protector or guardian.’ A conservatorship is generally initiated through a court proceeding, when there are allegations that a person is becoming forgetful or is otherwise unable to handle his or her affairs. A “conservatorship of person” may be launched for another party to make personal decisions for the alleged incapacitated person.

Upon initiation of a “conservatorship of estate,” however, all the assets are immediately transferred to the “care and protection” of the professional conservator.

As a result of the outcry following the publication of the Los Angeles Times articles which highlighted abuses in the conservatorship process, the California Legislature swung into action and passed the Omnibus Conservatorship Reform Act of 2006. One of the reforms stipulated by the bill was the creation of the Professional Fiduciary Bureau, which was chartered with the task of licensing the previously unregulated conservators and fiduciaries. Budget problems necessitated the delay in setting up the bureau, and in 2008 the Professional Fiduciary Bureau began reviewing the requests for licensure.

Melodie Scott’s request for a license was denied in August of 2008, based on the bureau alleging she made misrepresentations of fact on her application. The statement of issue produced by the Bureau also makes mention of her continuing to act as a conservator following the denial of a license as well as a drunk driving citation. Scott appealed that decision and in May went into contested hearings in Oakland Administrative Court According to John Cooper, the Department of Justice attorney who is representing the Fiduciary Bureau in this matter, a settlement offer was tendered to Scott on August 13. Following numerous protests being lodged with Cooper as to the appropriateness of granting a license to Scott, the Department of Consumer Affairs recently nullified the settlement offer.

No details were given by Cooper as to what the settlement offer contained, although sources close to Melodie Scott hinted that the offer involved payment of attorney’s fees incurred by the Professional Fiduciary Bureau in this matter.

According to Cooper, individuals who have testimony relevant to the charges against Scott may testify at the hearings, which will resume in October. Those interested in so doing may contact the Professional Fiduciary Bureau in Sacramento to arrange to testify.

Both Cooper and the Department of Consumer Affairs Press Officer, Russ Heimerich, were adamant that the Professional Fiduciary Bureau is only concerned with the licensing process and that individuals with allegations that Scott has used her position as a conservator and fiduciary to engage in illegal activity must lodge their complaints with law enforcement.

A call from the Sentinel to Scott’s office on September 22 seeking her input with regard to the matter did not elicit a response.

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