Gretchen Rachel Hammond
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“June 27 was petition day at the Oakland County Court. As soon as people saw my press badge, I was approached by at least 15-20 different families all begging me to write about their case. It was as if I had carried a loaf of bread into a village of starving people. Midway through the morning, I was escorted out of the building by at least a half-dozen sheriff’s deputies who were acting on orders of the courts judicial attorney Ryan Deel’s claims that I had not been given permission by the clerk of the court to be there.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After the above article was published detailing elder abuse by professional guardians in Northern Michigan, I visited the Oakland County Probate Court to watch a June 27 hearing on a petition for visitation brought by Mimi Brun who has not seen her mother Virginia Wahab for the two-years since Mimi’s power of attorney was tossed out Wahab had been assigned a professional guardian Jon Munger.What is happening in Oakland County is systemic and in literally hundreds of pages of documents I have already collected, I am seeing the same pattern in multiple cases involving at least six professional attorney/guardians there and three out of the four judges.

The guardians are alerted to a new admission by a nursing home with whom they have a downstream relationship. The nursing home then files a petition for guardianship which is granted by an Oakland County judge regardless of an existing power of attorney or whether or not the senior or his/her/their family is represented by counsel. The guardian then immediately halts visitation by the family members. In complete control of his ward’s medical and financial life, he proceeds to strip the estate, sell the house at far below market cost and bill the ward thousands. Within months, the ward has been declared both incapacitated and destitute. The guardian then applies for Medicaid benefits on behalf of the nursing home. Both the guardian and the nursing home make a tremendous profit while the ward is left to rot, often in a substandard facility.

In the Wahab case, detailed in the article, the reason that Munger had been assigned was stated as a past due-bill owed Lourdes and a need for the organization to apply for Medicaid benefits for Wahab. There is no Michigan statute that allows for a petition to be made or a guardian to be assigned because a nursing facility is owed money. 

Munger has kept Wahab at Lourdes in almost total isolation. However, on the 27th, she had been brought to the court while her daughter’s petition was heard. Wahab was surrounded by at least five Lourdes staff members including the organization’s CEO Maureen Comer. As soon as Munger saw my media badge, he left the court. He was instead represented by his attorney Joseph Ehrlich. Neither would answer any of my questions.

Once mother and daughter were finally together, both were in tears. Wahab repeated, again and again, that she wanted to go home with her daughter; that she did not want to remain at Lourdes any more.

Less than two minutes passed before Ehrlich suddenly barged toward the two and violently ripped the wheel chair from Brun. Virginia was visibly jolted by the experience.

“My turn,” Ehrlich said.

There was a court security camera directly behind us. The incident was witnessed by a half-dozen people. Brun screamed in pain and rage and tried to push Ehrlich away from her mother. He was smiling as a Lourdes aide quickly took Wahab back in to the court room. Even though Ehrlich was neither Wahab’s guardian nor an employee at Lourdes he would later state in a police report that he had been “asked by Lourdes staff to retrieve Virginia.”

In that same report, Ehrlich charged Brun with assault. The report stated that the court’s cameras were not functioning during the incident. Two of the witness statements are missing. Fortunately, I had my own camera rolling. Following a subpoena, that footage is now in the hands of Brun’s attorney.

In court, Brun’s attorney argued that there was no legal reason to keep the two apart and that their love was clearly evident. When Ehrlich addressed presiding Judge Linda Hallmark, his statements made during a 20-minute monologue were replete with inaccuracies including the date that Munger received guardianship. He stated it as June 19, 2016. It was actually ten days later. Yet, Hallmark refused to grant the visitation. Ehrlich instead called for and was granted an evidentiary hearing July 30. Wahab was immediately transported back to Lourdes. Neither she nor her daughter were permitted to speak.

June 27 was petition day at the Oakland County Court. As soon as people saw my press badge, I was approached by at least 15-20 different families all begging me to write about their case. It was as if I had carried a loaf of bread into a village of starving people. Midway through the morning, I was escorted out of the building by at least a half-dozen sheriff’s deputies who were acting on orders of the courts judicial attorney Ryan Deel’s claims that I had not been given permission by the clerk of the court to be there.

I don’t think they were concerned about such an action any more than the Detroit AG Bill Schuette, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder or Oakland County’s senators and house reps were interested in commenting about the issue. They know what I know I know – that the story will go away because it isn’t considered worthy of mass-media attention. The simple truth of American culture is that if my story had been about a 9-year-old girl and not a 94-year-old woman, this would be all over the internet and OpEds across national print and online outlets would be apoplectic in their demand that something be done about Oakland County.

The truth no one wants to admit is that this country has been and will always be a place for the young. It does not serve you to be old in America. Now that the boomers are gathering for what has been termed a “silver tsunami,” the gravy train presently running smack through the center of the Oakland County Probate Court is about to become endless in length.

These boomers face the same fate as Wahab and countless others before them because we are not at a place in America where people are given a chance to look beyond the news that is told because it is popular and focus on the news that must be told because it isn’t.

So here is the news that isn’t. Here is what we do not want to know:

According to an Oakland County case load report, total dispositions of guardianship and conservatorship cases numbered over 1,900 in 2017 alone.

An anonymous source inside Oakland County Probate told me that Munger has had well over 1,600 wards from past and present cases.

I’m going to carry on regardless. If I have to I’ll bet the farm on getting this story finished and the word out about these Probate Courts because something has to be done and someone has to try.

“There was an emperor who asked a shepherd’s boy, ‘How many seconds in eternity?’ The shepherd’s boy replied ‘There’s this mountain of pure diamond. It takes an hour to climb it, and an hour to go around it! Every hundred years, a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on the diamond mountain. And when the entire mountain is chiseled away, the first second of eternity will have passed!’ You must think that’s a heck of a long time. Personally, I think that’s a heck of a bird.”

Advertisements