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“Monterey County Weekly” story ignores elder abuse by Public Guardian

The Monterey County Weekly recently published the following story on elder abuse.

The elderly make an easy target for predators. Local law enforcement are stepping up.

The story neglects to mention the heinous abuse of Margarita Zelada by the Monterey County Public Guardian over the past year and a half. Rather, the story features glowing praise for the Public Guardian and a photo of Public Guardian Terri Scarlett posed before the Monterey County Courthouse. Scarlett has been at the center of false imprisonment and unlawful isolation of Margarita.

This Examiner sent the following letter to the editor of the Monterey County Weekly. Readers can contact Editor Mary Duan at

Mary Duan, Editor

Monterey County Weekly

668 Williams Avenue

Seaside, CA 93955

Dear Ms. Duan,

Sara Rubin’s May 15, 2014 story The elderly make an easy target for predators. Local law enforcement are stepping up only tells part of the story. Ms. Rubin focuses on failures of families to care for their elderly parents. She ignores the far greater horrors faced by those vulnerable elders at the hands of the Public Guardian.

Ms. Rubin revisits the night Margarita Zelada fell in the Pacific Grove kitchen of her daughter, Patricia Conklin. Ms. Rubin recounts the 911 call in which Margarita said that Patricia pushed her, causing her to fall. Ms. Rubin did not include Patricia’s explanation that she pushed Margarita away from the stove and the flames that Margarita did not see because she was turned away, engaged in conversation. Ms. Rubin did not include the March 11, 2013 letter written by Margarita’s court appointed attorney, stating that Margarita believed the fall was an accident. That letter was also suppressed at Patricia’s elder abuse trial in summer 2013.

Concerning the night when Patricia brought Margarita home from the skilled nursing facility, Ms. Rubin did not include that Deputy Public Guardian Jennifer Empasis told police she had in her possession the only copy of Margarita’s letters of conservatorship. It is the responsibility of the conservator to serve letters of conservatorship on the conservatee and all first and second degree relatives. Has your publication ever enquired as to why Ms. Empasis did not serve that important document?

Ms. Rubin did not mention that Margarita called Patricia from the facility and demanded to come home. Margarita signed herself out of the facility. Patricia engaged the services of a retired LVN to care for Margarita at home. Margarita was comfortably tucked into bed when ten Pacific Grove police officers entered the home with guns drawn. The nurse stated the officers rolled Margarita in a sheet, strapped her to a gurney, and took her to a waiting ambulance. The nurse also said Margarita’s screams that night were the most horrible thing she ever heard.

The nurse reported that the Public Guardian threatened her with prosecution if she testified in Patricia’s favor at trial. Patricia’s renter also reported being threatened by the Public Guardian.

The nurse has since reported being harassed and intimidated by Pacific Grove police for giving a statement concerning the events.

One can question whether justice was served at Patricia’s trial. Witnesses were threatened. Evidence was suppressed. Patricia was not allowed to testify. Are those practices the norm for Monterey County?

The Public Guardian’s “protection” of Margarita is chilling. Margarita is kept in an assisted living facility with three locks on the front door, a violation of licensing regulations. The Public Guardian instructed the facility to call the police if anyone asked to see Margarita. In more than a year, Margarita has been allowed only three short visits with Patricia. When elder rights advocates showed an interest in Margarita’s case, the Public Guardian obtained a court order preventing any contact. Margarita is imprisoned with no hope of release and isolated from the outside world. Convicted felons are given more privileges than conservatees in Monterey County.

The Public Guardian was not content with imprisoning only Margarita. On March 25, 2014, Patricia appeared at Public Comment at the Board of Supervisors meeting, pleading for help for Margarita. Two days later, Patricia was arrested for a probation violation. She remains in jail, where she is silenced from advocating for her mom.

Margarita and Patricia were ordinary individuals with ordinary faults. Margarita, who committed no crimes, has been imprisoned and isolated for over a year. Patricia, who did not know Margarita was conserved on that fateful night in March 2013, now finds herself in jail after she made a public plea for assistance. Is this how Monterey County serves families who need assistance in caring for elderly parents?

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