As part of their 2014 Aging in America conference, the American Society on Aging hosted a workshop on False Imprisonment & Isolation: Elder Abuse in Long-term Care. Workshop attendees discussed three case studies from California.
Participants were most horrified by the case of Margarita Zelada in Monterey County. Since March 2013, Monterey County Public Guardians Jennifer Empasis and Terri Scarlett have kept Margarita unlawfully imprisoned and isolated in an assisted living facility.
Emapsis denies Margarita contact with her daughter, her only blood relative in the United States. Empasis also denies Margarita any contact with elder rights advocates.
Assisted living residents have the right to leave the facility. The legislature never intended for assisted living facilities to function as private prisons. 22 CCR 87468(a)(6) states the right:
To leave or depart the facility at any time and to not be locked into any room, building, or on facility premises by day or night.
Assisted living residents have the right to have visitors. 22 CCR 87468(a)(11) states the right:
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.
Assisted living residents have the right to have phone calls. 22 CCR 87468(a)(14) states the right:
To have reasonable access to telephones, to both make and receive confidential calls.
However, Senior Paradise in Del Rey Oaks chooses not to honor those rights. When elder rights advocates attempted to visit Margarita, facility Director Margaret Camera said:
The Public Guardian told us to call the police if anyone asked to visit Margarita.
Camera closed the door on the advocates and engaged three locks with finality. Margarita was denied any contact with the advocates.
When a person is placed under conservatorship, as Margarita is, that person does not lose the right to visitation. Judicial Council Form GC-341 states:
Unless the court has limited or taken the right away, the conservatee also keeps the right to:
Receive visits from family and friends.
Due to widespread violation of conservatees’ rights by Public Guardians and private conservators, California’s 2013 legislature passed AB 937. The legislative analysis stated:
This bill would clarify that a conservatee retains personal rights, including, but not limited to, the right to receive visitors, telephone calls, and personal mail, unless specifically limited by court order.
Monterey County became the first county to deliberately circumvent the new legislation. Public Guardian Jennifer Empasis and County Counsel Cathleen Giovannini drafted a motion containing many false allegations.
The Public Guardian's false statements convinced the court to issue an order legitimizing their isolation of Margarita. Judge Lydia M. Villarreal signed the draft order submitted by the Public Guardian.
…approves the Public Guardian’s utilization of its discretion to deny visitation, telephone calls, personal mail, or contact with Linda Kincaid, and other associates and persons who have never previously met Ms. Zelada.
Margarita remains unlawfully isolated from her daughter and from elder rights advocates. Senior Paradise serves as a private prison for the elderly of Monterey County.
The Public Guardian and County Counsel report to the Board of Supervisors.
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
District 1: Fernando Armenta, email@example.com
District 2: Louis R. Calcagno, firstname.lastname@example.org
District 3: Simón Salinas, email@example.com
District 4: Jane Parker, firstname.lastname@example.org
District 5: Dave Potter, email@example.com