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By Brad Schrade
Abuses by legal guardians and conservators are a growing problem across the country as the population ages, and Minnesota policymakers on Wednesday announced a plan to weed out bad actors by strengthening the state’s background check process.
State Attorney General Lori Swanson is supporting a legislative push this session to require more detailed and frequent background checks on this loosely regulated industry that oversees the affairs of those in need of help.
“Financial abuse by guardians who are supposed to be looking out for vulnerable people is exploitive,” Swanson said in a release. “The legislation would update Minnesota law to help ensure that guardians meet the high standards necessary to look after another persons.”
The bill would expand checks to review whether a guardian or conservator was denied a state license for some fiduciary transgression or if there was some licensing action against them. It would require the disclosure of information in their past that could raise questions about their fitness for the job, such as if they have ever filed for bankruptcy or had an order of protection against them.
It will also lower the frequency for background checks from every five years to every two years for those in the profession and require disclose potentially disqualifying information, including new criminal history, within 30 days of the incident, according to a release detailing the proposal.
The chief sponsors for the legislation will be a pair of DFL lawmakers -- Rep. Debra Hilstrom, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Ron Latz, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently issued a report detailing scores of problems of abuse and exploitation by guardians. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is pursuing legislation at the federal level to crack down on elder abuse and exploitation by guardians and conservators.
By Jane Friedmann
A Park Rapids, Minn., assisted-living facility was found to have neglected the supervision of a resident with dementia after he left the facility unsupervised and without staff’s knowledge at least 11 times since 2010, according to a recent state report.
The resident of Care Age Country Home didn’t know his name or where he lived, and most times he was found walking along a busy highway.
The facility failed to report the incidents to the state, according to the state Office of Health Facility Complaints. Most of them occurred in early evening when exit doors were supposed to sound a continuous alarm when opened.
Care Age has updated the resident’s care plan to include procedures to minimize his risk of wandering.
An Edina woman convicted of stealing money while working as a court-appointed guardian and conservator for vulnerable adults has been sentenced to a year in jail.
Terri Ann Hauge, 57, is already serving a 270-day sentence in Hennepin County for stealing from an estate she oversaw. On Sept. 14, a Rice County judge sentenced her to 365 days in jail for convictions of perjury and theft by swindle related to cases she handled. She was also ordered to pay restitution and do 240 hours of community service.
I reported last year how Estate Resources, the company run by Hauge and Terrance Larpenteur, handled the finances for 200 vulnerable adults, despite a history of problems and complaints. The company collapsed in 2009. In March, Larpenteur, who now lives in Arizona, was sentenced to 180 days in the workhouse for his role in stealing from an estate.
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