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Palm Beach Post: Bill on professional guardians headed to Gov. Scott

April 29, 2015 Bill on professional guardians headed to Gov. Scott

By John Pacenti

It’s been a tough session for court-appointed professional guardians as at least three laws worked their way through the Florida Legislature to rein in practices after stories surfaced of financial abuse of their elderly wards. In the end, only one passed.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, called professional guardians “cockroaches” in a committee meeting.  Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, called for criminal penalties. The Palm Beach Post investigated these allegations in stories that ran April 3.

But the guardianship bills appeared in jeopardy, especially after the House adjourned earlier in a dispute with the Senate over health care. As a result, Detert’s bill died and it took another senator’s action to allow Passidomo’s bill to go through that creates a wheel for guardian appointments and other policy in an effort to address judicial favoritism.

Sen. Tom Lee, R-, withdrew an amendment that would have sent Passidomo’s bill (HB 5) back to a House that had already gone home for the session.

“It just wouldn’t be very classy to bring her legislation down in light of what the House did,” he said.

The bill heading to Gov. Rick Scott requires advance notice before hearings on the appointment of emergency temporary guardians. It would also allow the mediation of guardianship disputes among family members and require the reporting of incidents of abuse, neglect and exploitation of wards by guardians.

Detert said her bill was a casualty of the House calling it quits early but that the passage of the Passidomo proposal was “step one” and her first bill proposed next year will be on guardianship. Her bill would charge the state Department of Elder Affairs with certifying, overseeing and disciplining professional guardians who abuse their trust. It would also create a registry of professional guardians in each judicial circuit.

The laws were pushed by a grassroots group of family members who say their loved one were abused by professional guardians.

Dr. Sam J Sugar, Founder, AAAPG

Dr. Sam J Sugar, Founder, AAAPG

Her bill would charge the state Department of Elder Affairs with certifying, overseeing and disciplining professional guardians who abuse their trust. It would also create a registry of professional guardians in each judicial circuit.

The impetus behind the bills was a grassroots group of people who say they saw professional guardians abuse their loved ones.

Dr. Sam Sugar, co-founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, said the passing of Passidomo’s legislation was “a momentous event for the citizens of Florida who now will be a little bit less vulnerable to the greed-driven system called guardianship. ”