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Update From the Editor, Friday, Nov. 18

Hi everybody. Let me start by thanking everyone again for their posts. Carol Fox noted in one of her posts that we hadn't put several of her comments up on the site. Let me explain how this system works, so you don't think we're ignoring your posts. When you post comments, they come in on a list that we review. Since we do not edit posts, we cannot publish comments that contain factual allegations, or personal attacks, or foul language. But just because a post isn't published doesn't mean we haven't read it. Robin Fields, Evelyn Larrubia and Jack Leonard, the reporters who wrote Guardians for Profit, are reading every post. If they see information that they feel needs to be pursued, they will get back to you. So please don't get frustrated if you don't see your post on the public blog. By the same token, if seeing your comment is important to you, leave out allegations and other references to specific people--they are almost certain to keep your comments behind a veil, for the reporters eyes only. Either way, we very much appreciate your feedback. It is invaluable to us. Many of you have asked how to help the state's senior citizens who are being victimized by conservators. One sure way to do so is to keep in touch with us.

     Many others have asked about how to help Helen Jones, the woman highlighted in the beginning of Part 1 of Guardians for Profit. The best way, in my opinion, is stay involved--tell your elected officials that you are concerned about the elderly and that you want to see more vigorous oversight of conservators. Ms. Jones, I should add, is doing fine, and awaiting a Dec. 2 court hearing where a judge will consider whether she really needs a conservator. Janey R. asked in a post whether we plan to cover that hearing. We do, as well as every other hearing involving Ms. Jones until her objection to her conservatorship is resolved.

     One poster said she thought our series slighted the honest and hard-working conservators whose efforts greatly benefit their clients day in and day out. The Times reporters who reviewed every case in Southern California over a seven-year period felt it was urgent to highlight the abuses--and they found hundreds. But let me also say for the record that we agree there are many fine, honest conservators working with the elderly in California today. I, for one, believe that they would also benefit from licensing and greater regulation.

    Finally, one poster, Scott Whyte, asked which non-profit agency took over Pearl Inferrera's care (Part 4) after her professional conservator relinquished her case. I will check with Robin Fields, our expert on the case, and get back to you.

     I'll keep following your comments, and we can chat again tomorrow. Cheers, Vernon Loeb   

Comments

Paul Burton

I want to thank your for your series of articles on conservatorship problems and abuses in LA County. In the 1980s Warren Wilson of Channel 5 did an investigative series about residential care operators, primarily in the Palmdale area, who were literally kidnapping mentally ill people from skid row and keeping them, mostly against their will, and charging them for residential care. After some years of registering complaints, the LA Co Dist Attorney and State Licensing finally did act to stop this practice and put the abusers out of business. Your articles will likely have the same effect (I hope) on conservatorship abuses. As a social worker and manager of programs for mentally ill veterans, I have experienced the frustrations of seeing clients suffer because of incompetent or dishonest conservators, or other fiduciaries appointed by the VA, Social Security Administration, or the courts. One distortion in your articles, I believe, is the assumption that family members will always have the interests of their family members at heart. Some of the worst abuses I have observed have been where family members have been appointed conservator, either Probate or LPS.

Colleen Keith

Since the first article appeared, I have been meaning to write to the Times to thank the reporters who worked on the series. I don't remember when a series of articles has captured my attention like this one did. The reporters are to be commended for spending the time to research and write the articles. I'm sure they uncovered many, many more cases but didn't have the space to write about each one.

I am appalled at the people who would take advantage of the elderly like the ones portrayed in the articles, but I am even more appalled at the legal system that let them get away with it for so many years. Thank you, to the reporters, who brought this situation to light. Too bad several of the judges are retired. They should be held accountable for their actions (or lack thereof) that created or perpetuated the problems.

Clarence

With major newspapers in the U.S. in the news themselves because of questions about the conduct of their reporters in covering stories, it is refreshing to see the L.A. Times doing what newspapers do so well - tell us about important realities in our lives and communities that we need to know about and probably don't. This is one of those hidden stories that effects those least able to protect themselves and least able to alert others of the dangers. I hope that you are able to keep digging and expose any collusion that may have existed among those in authority with these conservators. This kind of story helps me to believe that you are really doing your jobs in delivering news that is meaningful to us and not just serving up the usual politics, fires and murders. Thanks

Eric Buchanan

Much is revealed by how a society treats its poor, infirm and elderly. As the Times' series glaringly reveals, our city is crowded beyond its means, and can no longer adequately care for those most in need. So often in the vanguard, Los Angeles and California represent an enviable lifestyle to many. Yet the lack of urgency displayed by those charged with official oversight is a humiliating black eye on our sunny face, and another example of Proposition 13's ultimate legacy. Those who manipulate the frailties of an overloaded system to prey upon the weak are just as representative of our groaning city-state as any garden-variety politician or over-publicized media figure. Celebrity culture may have its rewards, but they are far from priceless. As this excellent series has demonstrated, the long-term hard costs of that "enviable" lifestyle are staggering, and in terms of human dignity, incalculable.

Liliana Farruggia-Torres

The story covered over the last week has touched the lives of many, mainly opening our eyes and berought awareness on a topic that has been suspected for at least ten years. I work for a public agency that provides services to senior citizens. I have come across a few conservators that should be in prison today. But because our system is so lax, the disadvantaged had been abused. I strongly believe your story will open the eyes of many and perhaps put pressure on our appointed officials to pass bills that will assist in regulation. As a public agency we will do our best to educate the community when legislation is proposed and as well reached out to the community to be aware and prepared.


Thank you again
Liliana Farruggia-Torres

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