“A recent board meeting found the members focused on concerns about raising more revenue for the bureau, which has taken out two loans totaling over a million dollars in order to stay solvent. The bureau reported that $357,000 for the current year covered only two staff positions and that a mere $50,000 was allotted for enforcement. The minutes reflect concerns that “one big case would break the budget.”
When Janis Schock learned that her complaint of conservator wrongdoing, submitted to the California Professional Fiduciaries Bureau, had been closed without an investigation taking place, she was dumbfounded. The communication from Angela Bigelow, analyst and sole full-time employee of the Professional Fiduciary Bureau (PFB), stated that the court must first make a determination of wrongdoing before the PFB could take action. Janis Schock wasn’t so sure this was true.
As it turns out, Schock was correct.
The Professional Fiduciaries Bureau is a relatively new addition to consumer oversight agencies and is lodged in the Department of Consumer Affairs. The PFB was established by an act of law in 2006, following public outcry engendered by a 2005 Los Angeles Times series which revealed questionable practices by California conservators, who were at that time unlicensed. The bureau, as written into law, is mandated to license professional fiduciaries, to investigate complaints and, where appropriate, to refer complaints to law enforcement. The bureau is also empowered to revoke a license based on complaints and to take action on unlicensed activity. The Professional Fiduciaries Act defines a professional fiduciary in this manner:
“Professional fiduciary”means a person who acts as a conservator of the person, the estate, or person and estate, or guardian of the estate, or person and estate, for two or more individuals at the same time who are not related to the professional fiduciary or to each other.
Conservators are generally appointed through court proceedings when there are allegations that a person is lacking capacity; in other words, becoming forgetful or otherwise unable to handle his or her affairs. These allegations need meet no standard of proof, which provides an opening for abuse of process. The Government Accountability Office recently released a report citing multiple instances where a conservator had abused his powers to the detriment of the conservatee. Several grassroots groups have sprung up to address the issue of abusive conservatorships, which are reported to be taking place countrywide. More