A freedom of information request was sent to the Florida office of public and professional guardians. The specific questions and answers are summarized below:
|Request: “I would like to have what data you can share about the following:”||Office of Public and Professional Guardian Response|
|Number of Certified Professional Guardians in FL in 2020||We are interpreting this request as the following: The total number of professional guardians registered with our office in 2020 Response: 569|
|Number of Family Guardianships in FL in 2020||No responsive record|
|Number of total guardianships in FL in 2020 For Profit Public||We are interpreting this request as the following: The total number guardianships served by For Profit and Public Guardians in 2020 Response: For Profit – No responsive record Public – No responsive record for calendar year 2020. However, approximately 3,890 wards for the State Fiscal Year 2019-2020 and estimated to serve 4,100 in State Fiscal Year 2020-2021.|
|Number of new Guardians in 2020||We are interpreting this request as the following: The total number of new professional guardians registered with our office in 2020 Response: 59|
|Number of New guardianship cases in 2020||No responsive record|
|Number of Complaints to OPPG in 2020||169|
|Number of complaints investigated in 2020||68|
|Number of complaints that resulted in any punitive action against guardians||We are interpreting this request as the following: The number of complaints that resulted in a professional guardian disciplined by our office in 2020 Response: 18|
|Number of Guardians Decertified in 2020||We are interpreting this request as the following: The total number of professional guardian registrations revoked by our office in 2020 Response: 0|
In analyzing these statistics, the following conclusions can be drawn:
In calendar year 2020 of the 169 total complaints submitted to OPPG only 68 were deemed legally sufficient to be investigated, meaning 60% of all complaints were never investigated and outright rejected.
Of the 68 legally sufficient complaints submitted and accepted in 2020, only 18 resulted in any type of action by the OPPG against the guardian, a rate of 26% for accepted complaints and only 10.6% of all complaints received. The OPPG will not release or share the severity or type of action taken in any of these 18 cases, but because not a single one of these guardians was decertified and there is no evidence that the department referred even a single case for criminal investigation, it can only be assumed that the actions taken by the agency were of a minor administrative variety. There is no information on whether any guardians were fined, sanctioned or otherwise even impacted by the existence of this supposed regulatory agency run by Florida’s Department of Elderly Affairs.
Of the 68 complaints and including the 18 that resulted in action against the guardian, not a single guardian was decertified in the year 2020.
For every complaint to the OPPG which resulted in any type of action against the guardian, nearly 3 new guardians were appointed.
The OPPG estimates that 4100 guardianships in 2021 will be public Guardianships.
The OPPG cannot provide statistics on how many total guardianships there are currently in Florida (although the data DOES exist but it sequestered and available only by action of the Legislature) but prior educated guesses from the office of Clerk of Courts in Palm Beach County estimate the number to be between 55,000 and 65,000 with as many as 7000 new guardianships a year every year and about the same number of cases being closed yearly due to death of the ward. Subtracting the number of public guardianships from the total leaves us with the assumption that there are between 51,000 and 61,000 nonpublic guardianships in the state of Florida at any given time. No breakdown between family guardianships and professional guardianships was available or provided.
The OPPG has failed to produce an annual report since 2018, which reported on activities in the prior year. This means that there is no publicly available data on the activities of that agency for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020. No explanation has been given for the failure to produce such an annual report.
In 2003, there were a total of 23 professional guardians in the entire state of Florida. That number has grown dramatically to the current total of 569.
The Florida probate court system has an estimated annual revenue stream of over $1 billion. There is no information on the dollar value of the thousands of professional guardianships created yearly in Florida.
Guardianship is an enormous business in Florida. It can be expected to grow substantially because of the ever increasing migration of senior citizens and their money into the state in retirement.
Checks and Balances?
While the court system has the express responsibility for monitoring every guardianship it creates, in a massive failure to serve as a check and balance on the system , it simply does not do that. In Florida, the court creates guardianships and then walks away from them, but it does love to create and encourage staged litigation over the guardianships it does create that can last for decades and generate enormous amounts of money for all court insiders.
Given the fact that the OPPG is strictly an administrative agency whose greatest threat to any improper activity by a guardian, professional or otherwise, is decertification, (guardians are not licensed, so losing their license is not a threat) the risk of any action by the agency against an abusive guardian is far outweighed by the potential accrual of massive money and power. It should be noted that while any number of crimes have been ascribed to dozens of abusive guardians over the years, there has not been a single prosecution of an abusive guardian for money crimes like improper taking, embezzlement, theft in recent memory other than the recent case against Tracy Hudson Samuel, now awaiting trial.
Richard Prudhom, the director of the Department of elderly affairs is well aware of all these issues. So is the Executive Director of the OPPG, Chante Jones. So is the Supreme Court. So are the legislators in Tallahassee. And so is the governor Ron Santis. Perhaps if they are unable to understand the system they oversee, they should just watch the first half of the number one movie in America, I Care a Lot, where it is described in agonizing detail. I would supply the popcorn.