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In the Matter of: J.W. and P.W.

October 3, 2011

IN THE MATTER OF: J.W. AND P.W.


Civil Appeal from Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, Case Nos. 00066857 and 00066856

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edwards, J.

Cite as In re J.W.,

CHARACTER OF PROCEEDING:

JUDGMENT:

DATE OF JUDGMENT ENTRY:

JUDGES: William B. Hoffman, P.J. Sheila G. Farmer, J. Julie A. Edwards, J.

OPINION

{¶1} Appellants, Echo Brown, J.W. and P.W., appeal from the December 14, 2010, Entries of the Fairfield County Probate Court.

STATEMENT OF THE FACTS AND CASE

{¶2} On October 7, 2010, Jeffrey Feyko filed an Application in Fairfield County Probate Case No. 00066856 to be appointed the Guardian of appellant J.W. The application alleged that appellant J.W. was incompetent due to senile dementia, mental impairment and an inability to care for himself. On the same date, Feyko filed an application in Fairfield County Probate Case No. 00066857 to be appointed the Guardian of appellant P.W. The application alleged that appellant P.W. was incompetent due to dementia, mental impairment and an inability to care for herself. Feyko had no relationship to either appellants J.W. or P.W. On the same day, Feyko filed expert evaluations in both cases from a licensed physical opining that guardianships should be established for both appellants J.W. and P.W.

{¶3} A hearing on the applications was scheduled for October 28, 2010.

{¶4} On October 7, 2010, Feyko also filed motions in both cases asking that the court grant him the authority to place and maintain appellants J.W. and P.W. in a nursing home and/or medical facility and to sign any documents required by the same during the pendency of the applications for guardianship. Pursuant to Entries filed in both cases on the same day, the motions were granted.

{¶5} Thereafter, appellants P.W. and J.W. filed an objection in both cases to the appointment of Feyko as Guardian. In their objections, they asked that if the trial court determined that Guardianships were necessary, appellant Echo Brown, the spouse of their grandson, be appointed their Guardian. Appellants J.W. and P.W., on October 14, 2010, filed waivers of notice and consent, indicating that they consented to the appointment of appellant Echo Brown as Guardian. Appellant Echo Brown, on October 14, 2010, filed applications in both cases to be appointed Guardian. In her applications, she indicated that the prospective wards were incompetent by reason of "mental impairment as a result of mental or physical illness or disability."

{¶6} As memorialized in Entries filed in both cases on October 22, 2010, the trial court scheduled an oral hearing on the objection to Jeffrey Feyko as Guardian for November 29, 2010.

{¶7} On October 22, 2010, Charlene Miller, a court investigator, filed reports in both cases on the proposed guardianship. She recommended that Jeffrey Feyko be appointed Guardian for both appellant J.W. and appellant P.W. because they needed assistance to care for their personal, medical and/or financial decisions.

{¶8} Subsequently, on November 4, 2010, Rebecca Cooper, a Certified Long Term Care Ombudsman from Catholic Social Services, filed a letter with the trial court objecting to the appointment of Feyko as Guardian. Cooper, in her letter, indicated that her office had been contacted in order to investigate a complaint that appellants J.W. and P.W. were being held against their will at Crestview Manor Nursing Home and that she was aware that Feyko had applied for Guardianship after receiving a referral from Crestview. Cooper, in her letter, stated, in relevant part, as follows:

{¶9} "Mr. Feyko requested and was granted a motion providing him with the authority to place and maintain the proposed ward in a nursing home facility and/or medical facility during the pendency of the application for guardianship. According to both the nursing home staff and Adult Protective Services staff, the immediate health and well-being of the proposed ward mandate continued nursing home placement.

{¶10} "I believe that this motion is based upon competing interests. Crestview Manor is currently suing these individuals, and it is assumed that their referral to Mr. Feyko was made under their assumption that the money owed will be more easily obtained through a guardian. I am also aware that the Adult Protective Services caseworker, Patty, has previously and currently represented herself to our agency as an employee of Mr. Feyko. The Adult Protective Services caseworker therefore demonstrates a conflict of interest in her role to make recommendations that these individuals require continued nursing home placement during the pending status of the guardianship application."

{¶11} Appellants J.W. and P.W., on November 10, 2010, filed letters in both cases asking that they be provided with legal representation in order to contest Jeffrey Feyko's Applications for Guardianship. They requested that an oral hearing be held so that they could testify on their own behalf. In response to such letter. Charlene Miller, the Court Investigator, made a return visit to Crestview Manor Nursing Home and spoke with appellants J.W. and P.W. In a letter to the court filed on November 19, 2010, Miller indicated that she explained to them and they were not indigent, that the trial court could not appoint them counsel and that they would need to seek counsel on their own. Miller, in her letter, further indicated that appellants J.W. and P.W. were "shocked and upset stating that they never wrote to the court requesting an attorney", although they admitted the letter contained their signatures.

{ΒΆ12} A hearing on Feyko's Applications for Guardianship was held on November 29, 2010. At the hearing, both appellant J.W. and P.W., who were not represented by counsel, indicated to the trial court that they wanted appellant Echo Brown to be the Guardian. The only witness to testify was Patricia Ciripompa, an investigator for Adult Protective Services (APS) who is employed by Fairfield County Job and Family Services. Ciripompa testified that APS has had nine referrals regarding appellants J.W. and P.W. starting in 2000. She testified that in 2000, appellant J.W. was identified with a history of alcohol and drug abuse and that the house was very cluttered. She testified that the caregiver, who was a relative, had a hard time because appellants J.W. and P.W. did not comply and would not allow APS into ...


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