Linda Kincaid

Elder Advocate, California


Governmental apathy, negligence & cover up

Gisela Riordan is a victim of elder abuse by the Santa Clara County Public Guardian.  Gisela is falsely imprisoned and unlawfully isolated at Villa Fontana, a residential care facility in San Jose, California.  That abuse is ordered by the Public Guardian and funded by taxpayer dollars.

In 2010, the Probate Court appointed the Public Guardian as Gisela’s conservator.  The Court ordered the Public Guardian to manage visits with Gisela’s adult children.  The court did not authorize any further restrictions on Gisela’s right to visitation.

Since 2010, the Public Guardian has denied visitors, phone calls, and mail.  Family and advocates have pursued every avenue to establish contact with Gisela, determine her condition, and assure her she is not forgotten.  When the ABC 7 News I-Team asked to visit Gisela, the Public Guardian instructed Villa Fontana to call 911.

Apathy & Negligence by Governmental Agencies

California’s Resident’s  and Notice of Conservatee’s Rights both guarantee Gisela’s right to visitation.  California’s Probate Code requires the least restrictive residence.  However, government agencies tasked with protecting those rights are entirely apathetic.

Adult Protective Services routinely refuses to intervene in cases of elder abuse by court appointed guardians or conservators. They did not respond to multiple complaints from this reporter.  APS can be reached at 408-975-4900 or 1-800-414-2002

Long-Term Care Ombudsman Wanda Hale stated to this reporter that Gisela is allowed to have visitors.  Hale said she reached that conclusion based solely on discussion with staff at Villa Fontana, the facility that unlawfully enforces the isolation.  Wanda Hale can be reached at 408-944-0567.

Community Care Licensing Division of Department of Social Services has authority to order compliance with regulations and to assess civil penalties for violations of resident’s rights.  However, their June 19, 2012 Complaint Investigation Report on Gisela’s case indicates Licensing in Santa Clara County will allow violations of personal rights, provided the resident’s file contains “parameters” for those violations.

Based on our investigation visits and phone calls are permitted within the parameters established in the resident’s file.

Allegation is unfounded at this time and no citation is issued.

Community Care Licensing San Francisco Coastal Regional Manager Pam Gill approved the report quoted above.  Ms. Gill can be reached at 650-266-8800.

Counties Apply Regulation Inconsistently

Community Care Licensing’s response to isolation of Gisela Riordan in Santa Clara County was entirely different from Community Care Licensing’s response to isolation of Carol Hahn in San Bernardino County.  The facts in Gisela’s case were similar to the facts in Carol’s case.

In 2010, a court appointed conservator instructed Wildwood Canyon Villa, a San Bernardino County residential care facility, to isolate Carol from all visitors, phone calls, and mail.  On September 27, 2010, Community Care Licensing in San Bernardino County cited Wildwood for violation of Carol’s right to visitation under Welfare and Institutions Code”87468(aHYPERLINK”)(HYPERLINK “”11).

To have his/her visitors, including ombudspersons and advocacy representatives permitted to visit privately during reasonable hours and without prior notice, provided that the rights of other residents are not infringed upon.

Licensing ordered:

Licensee will not violate the personal rights of residents.  Licensee shall submit a statement in writing to the CCL office addressing the understanding of resident’s personal rights as it pertains to visitors.  In addition, all staff shall be trained on the personal rights of residents and requirements and provide proof of training to CCL office….

Wildwood Canyon Villa Executive Director Lynnette Alvarado appealed the citation, stating the conservator ordered the isolation.

They have asked that the particular visitor not be allowed to see this resident…

Licensing Program Manager Robert Manos denied Alvarado’s appeal.

…the rights enumerated in this section of the regulation belong to the resident.  The decision to allow or disallow any visitation belongs to the resident alone unless the court has appointed a conservator over the person and granted the conservator the power to make such decisions. (emphasis added).

The citation was issued appropriately and is upheld.

We are led to question why the regulation is applied inconsistently across counties.  Is there a darker reason behind Santa Clara County’s refusal to enforce Gisela’s personal rights?

Cover-up by California Department of Social Services

This reporter contacted California Department of Social Services Director Will Lightbourne, who oversees Pam Gill in her role as Regional Manager for Community Care Licensing in San Francisco Coastal California.  Lightbourne responded in a June 19, 2012 letter:

The results of the investigation are clear that there are no violations of Ms. Riordan’s personal rights due to isolation occurring at the Villa Fontana facility….  Under the broad legal powers conferred to the conservator of the person under California Probate Code Section 2350 et seq., and in accordance with the court order granting conservatorship, the conservator in this situation is charged with care, custody, and control of the conservator.  Unless otherwise limited by the court, which is not the case in this particular conservatorship, this includes the right to control just who is an appropriate visitor to the conservatee….  In regards to Ms. Riordan, the Public Guardian has determined that you are not to have any contact with Ms. Riordan. (emphasis added).

This reporter responded to Lightbourne with Probate Code 2352(a).

The guardian shall select the least restrictive appropriate residence that is available and necessary to meet the needs of the ward, and that is in the best interests of the ward. (emphasis added).

Probate code 2352.5(a) adds:

It shall be presumed that the personal residence of the conservatee at the time of commencement of the proceeding is the least restrictive appropriate residence for the conservatee. (emphasis added).

At no point does the Probate Code give a conservator authority to isolate the conservatee without a specific order from the court.  The Notice of Conservatee’s Rights (GC-341) lists rights the conservatee retains.

Unless the court the court has limited or taken the right away, the conservatee also keeps the right to:

Receive personal mail;

Receive visits from family and friends;

A copy of the Notice of Conservatee’s Rights is in Gisela’s court file, and it is signed by Public Guardian Donald Moody.

In an August 24, 2012 letter to this reporter, Deputy Director / Chief Counsel Greta Wallace at Department of Social Services added her opinion that the Public Guardian need not comply with the Conservatee’s Rights.

In this case, the Public Guardian, as duly appointed conservatory, has the delegated authority to determine appropriate visitors for Ms. Riordan….  The above restrictions are well within the law and cannot be viewed as a violation of Ms. Riordan’s personal rights.

It should be noted that in 2010, when Gisela Riordan was conserved and her years of isolation began, Lightbourne was Director of the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency.  That Agency oversees the Public Guardian, who now enforces isolation on conservatees.

Abuse of Gisela Riordan began under Lightbourne’s authority as Director of Social Services for Santa Clara County.  Abuse continues under Lightbourne’s authority as Director of California’s Department of Social Services.  Lightbourne serves in his current post through an interagency agreement between the County of Santa Clara and the State of California.  He is expected to retire in a few years with a substantial pension from his county and state appointments.


Read Part I HERE

Read Part II HERE