Monday, December 27, 2010

Sacramento Judge Grants Melodie Scott a License Under Questionable Circumstances

This reporter has reviewed a number of complaints which were filed with the PFB on Melodie Scott. The complaints include allegations of theft, perjury and murder for profit.

Janet C. Phelan

Janet discussing the latest in the Melodie Scott chronicles; Tune in and find out, Mike Herzog hosts "American Awakening" which airs on at 7:00 p.m. Central this Monday.…

(SAN BERNADINO) - In a hearing in Sacramento Superior Court last Friday, controversial conservator Melodie Scott was granted a license to practice as a professional fiduciary. The hearing, which focused on the untimely filing of the Department of Consumer Affairs' decision to deny her the license, wrapped up in one day.

Judge Lloyd Connelly, who stated he had "never heard of the fiduciaries bureau," granted the license to Scott, who has been battling to achieve licensure since it was first denied to her in August of 2008.

Scott´s professional troubles began when the L.A. Times featured her in an expose back in 2005.

The series, entitled "Guardians for Profit—When a Family Matter Becomes a Business," revealed questionable practices by a number of Southland conservators. Public outcry resulted in the California Legislature passing the Omnibus Conservatorship Reform act of 2006, which established the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau (PFB) to oversee the previously unlicensed conservators and other fiduciaries. The PFB is currently housed in the Department of Consumer Affairs

Conservators are generally appointed by the court, when there are allegations that a person is becoming forgetful or otherwise lacking the capacity to take care of him or herself. There are two types of conservatorships in the State of California--a conservatorship of estate, through which the conservator handles all the financial affairs of the alleged incapacitated person and a conservatorship of person, wherein the conservator makes the personal decisions for the conservative. These may include where a person will live, whether they will be permitted to see family or friends, whether or not they will marry and may include decisions as to what type of medical care the conservative will receive.

The civil rights issues inherent in proceedings wherein a person may lose all access to their funds and all rights to make personal decisions, based on unproven allegations have resulted in widespread concern among elder advocates. A number of grassroots groups, both national and regional, have recently sprung up, dedicated to addressing corrupt practices in conservatorships. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office confirmed that abusive practices in conservatorships are emerging, nationwide.

In 2008, the newly created PFB first started reviewing applications for licensing. As required by law, Melodie Scott applied for a license. The PFB denied her the license on the grounds that she made false statements on her application. Two later charges were added--1)that she continued to act as a fiduciary after her license was denied and that 2) she had received a drunk driving conviction.

Scott appealed the decision. The appeal was heard in Oakland Administrative Law Court and spanned several months. At one point, Deputy Attorney General John Cooper, who was representing the PFB in this matter, offered a deal to Scott wherein she would receive her desired license, apparently in return for paying the attorneys' fees. After Cooper denied to this reporter the fact that a deal was on the table (a matter which was confirmed by the DCA press office), the San Bernardino County Sentinel reported the prospective deal and also that Cooper was attempting to obscure this from the press. The offer made to Scott was subsequently revoked.

At the conclusion of the hearings last Spring, Administrative Law Judge Melissa Crowell issued a decision that Scott should be licensed.

A petition protesting this decision was then filed with Brian Stiger, the Executive Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs.

The petition, which was signed by about 75 California citizens, stated as follows:

“I, the undersigned, through personal experience and/or through knowledge of another’s experience, believe that there exists an influential group of persons and businesses who encompass a large part of the San Bernardino & Riverside County probate systems. This alliance preys upon the area’s elderly and disabled, particularly regarding conservatorships, guardianships & estates. Some, but by no means all, of the names which appear frequently in cases where an exorbitant amount of the client’s estate is consumed are:

“Melodie Jo Scott; conservator, probate administrator, owner - C.A.R.E. Inc.

Lawrence Dean; conservator, probate administrator,

Christina Erickson-Taube; conservator, probate administrator

Bryan Hartnell; conservator, attorney, of Hartnell, Lister, & Moore

David Horspool; attorney, of Horspool & Parker

C.A.R.E., Inc; Conservatorship And Resources for the Elderly, Inc. - Redlands, CA

Hartnell, Lister, & Moore; law firm – Redlands, CA

Horspool & Parker; law firm – Redlands, CA

E. Joan Nelms; attorney, judge pro tem

Sherri Kastilahn; attorney, judge pro tem

“A name search in the Superior Court websites for the above-named counties reveals more than 400 cases for the first two names alone. In these cases it would not be unusual to find: one of this group acting as Conservator/guardian; another as attorney for the Conservator/guardian, a third as attorney for the Conservatee, a fourth as Case Manager, and yet another sitting as Judge Pro Tem. Upon death of the Conservatee, one of the group is often then appointed Probate/estate Administrator, with another as Attorney for the Administrator. In this single-sided scenario, abuse is inevitable.

“In Ms. Scott’s case, the news stories (the Times series was one of several) and the large number of clients who have suffered financial ruin or worse, are undeniable indicators that protection of the public is indeed the issue. Ms Scott and her contemporaries, rather than assisting their clients and preserving clients estates from harm, are usually the greatest threat they face.”

The petition went on to request that Melodie Scott be denied a professional fiduciaries license.

Brian Stiger did go ahead and override Judge Crowell´s decision and issue a non adoption order. Strangely, he ordered his staff to refrain from filing this decision until it became untimely. This opened the door for Melodie Scott to go to court and appeal his decision on a technicality. It was on the basis of this technicality that Judge Lloyd Connelly granted Scott her license last Friday.

However, the PFB had already received a number of complaints concerning Melodie Scott at the time that the court was deliberating the matter of her license. According to Gary Duke, legal counsel for the DCA, the decision not to investigate the numerous complaints that had been filed on Scott and to solely focus on her lying on her application was an “economic” decision. “We thought we had enough on her in terms of the application issue to make sure she didn’t get licensed,” said Duke in an interview this past summer.

This reporter has reviewed a number of complaints which were filed with the PFB on Melodie Scott. The complaints include allegations of theft, perjury and murder for profit.

Betty Cory wrote the Professional Fiduciaries bureau that her son, D’Wayne, died as a direct result of the caregiver hired by Scott pounding on Dwayne´s chest and causing his lung to collapse. As previously reported in the Sentinel, Betty Cory had become concerned about the actions of Melodie Scott, who was the conservator of D’Wayne Cory’s multi-million dollar estate and was planning on asking the court to remove her. Among other economically questionable moves, Scott had obtained the court's approval for a bid to build a pool for Cory which was tens of thousands of dollars higher than the other bids. The pool contractor, Kirk Gillette, refused to answer questions concerning rumors that he had a romantic relationship with Scott nor would he answer questions as to why the work on the pool had stalled for weeks prior to Cory's sudden death.

Joseph Quattrochi, who has filed a federal lawsuit against Melodie Scott, complained to the PFB that Scott had perjured herself in the original petition for conservatorship over his father, Joseph Quattrochi, Sr. He also pointed to several issues where he alleged Scott had padded her bill. In addition, his complaint included documentation that the lawyer representing Scott in the conservatorship proceedings, E. Joan Nelms, was also sitting as judge pro tem in San Bernardino Court and was regularly hearing cases by lawyers in the same firm for which she worked.

Quattrochi has voiced concern that he never received a document tracking number or a response concerning the disposition of his complaint. This reporter has reviewed a number of emails sent by Quattrochi to Gil DeLuna, PFB chief, asking for an update on what happened to his complaint, which was filed over a year and a half ago. This reporter also contacted the DCA asking for an update on the Quattrochi complaint. No response was received. Rather, Russ Heimerich of the DCA wrote this reporter that her questions about a number of actions taken by the PFB were "none of her business," which seems to confirm the growing perception that the PFB is operating through a code of zero transparency and accountability.

Quattrochi’s report is the second concerning Melodie Scott that this reporter has reviewed which the PFB refuses to respond to or supply a tracking number.Both reports document actions by Scott which could be considered criminal, including the fact that Scott failed to report a bank account which belonged to a conservatee, which Scott subsequently used for her own purposes. Other issues included complaints that Scott withheld critical medicine from a conservatee, resulting in hospitalization and emergency surgery and that Scott used a client’s funds to pay her own attorney fees as she launched her quest to get her license. Queries directed to the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau questioning the legality of their “cherry picking” complaints were shunted off.

Gina Rilke never received a resolution to her complaint. Melodie Scott was not only removed as conservator for Rilke´s husband, Scott Viracola, but was also ordered to pay back $2,000 which Judge Ludvigson determined to have been misappropriated. Ludvigson further disallowed around $10,0000 which Scott had requested as payment. Rilke has alleged that Scott misappropriated thousands of dollars more.

In defiance of the PFB, Melodie Scott continued to advertise herself as a “professional fiduciary” after her license was denied, which is a misdemeanor in the State of California. After this was reported in the San Bernardino County Sentinel, she subsequently took down her website, where the violation had occurred. She was reported to be “biding her time until this all blows over.”

Response to the news of Scott´s licensing has run the gamut. When contacted for comment, Betty Cory began to weep. A Palm Desert attorney wrote:

“Oh gawd, honestly - as the kids say she is a Menace II Society. How these corrupt judges can continue allowing her to operate is truly beyond me.” A Fontana man reported that he was going to attempt to appeal the Sacramento court´s decision.

Gina Rilke remains troubled by the failure of the DCA to file the papers within the time frame required by law. “What has continued to bother me since my conversation with Duke (DCA Legal Counsel Gary Duke) is that he said his supervisor was the one who told Duke to hold off on filing the PFB´s decision. Duke said he wondered why the decision was being delayed, but those were his orders, so that´s how he handled it,” writes Rilke.

Rilke goes on to note that the Bureau “waited and filed the decision precisely within the window of time that would enable the Bureau to give the appearance of wanting to deny Ms. Scott a license, while simultaneously allowing her to prevail on a technicality.”

Rilke ponders, “is the Director (Brian Stiger) in Melodie’s pocket, too?”

Phone calls to Brian Stiger were not returned. Conservator Lisa Berg, who sits on the Board overseeing the PFB, refused to speak with this reporter. Russ Heimerich, who handles the press matters for the PFB, did not return calls. He did send a written response, refusing to supply the cost to the State for the Melodie Scott matter, stating that: "This would require the creation of a document, and the Public Records Act does not require agencies to create documents to satisfy Public Records Act requests."

Heimerich apparently forgot that he supplied this information three weeks back,prior to the costs accrued at the most recent hearing. At that point, the total cost to the taxpayer had come to $83,979.35.
Janet Phelan is a journalist whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Santa Monica Daily Press, The Long Beach Press Telegram, Oui Magazine and other regional and national publications. Her poetry has been published in Gambit, Libera, Applezaba Review, Nausea One and other magazines. She resides in Los Angeles.

Read more about conservatorships in general and Melodie Scott in particular at:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Justice Lloyd Connelly is in error, he broke the law, and Melody Scott's license should be revoked immediately. Justice Connelly should be removed as judge, because he is not following the rule of law!! This law was instituted because "we the people" are fed up with this crap that is going on..."in the name of justice". Governor of California Arnold Schwarznegger was instrumental in getting this law passed, and this is a slap in the face of all Americans that Connelly gave Scott a license.