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Public health experts discuss elder abuse by Monterey County Public Guardian

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The December 9 and 10, 2013 annual conference of the Southern California Public Health Association hosted public health authorities discussing the latest in policy and best practices. Speakers and attendees represented many parts of southern California and north to the greater San Jose area.

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An expert panel discussed elder abuse by court appointed conservators throughout California. Abuse of San Francisco resident Margarita Zelada by the Monterey County Public Guardian drew considerable attention.

Public health practitioners were appalled to learn that Monterey County public health funds are used to facilitate elder abuse. The Monterey County Public Guardian, an office under the Health Department, is currently engaged in civil rights violations and heinous elder abuse of conservatee Margarita Zelada.

On March 25, 2013, ten Pacific Grove police officers forcibly removed Margarita from her daughter’s home. Witnesses said the officers pulled Margarita from her bed, rolled her in a sheet, strapped her to a gurney, and forced her into a waiting ambulance. A neighbor spoke of Margarita’s screams as the most horrible sounds she ever heard.

Deputy Public Guardian Jennifer Empasis has kept Margarita unlawfully confined and forcibly isolated since the March siege. Other than three brief visits Margarita is denied all contact with her daughter Patricia Conklin, Margarita’s only blood relative in the United States.

Responding to pressure from elder rights advocates, the Public Guardian allowed Margarita one-hour visits with her daughter on October 31, November 7, and November 15. Margarita had strong words concerning false imprisonment by the Public Guardian.

The most important thing for any person is their liberty. I want my liberty.

I am in prison.

They are thieves and liars.

The Public Guardian did not take kindly to Margarita’s brief exercise of free speech. The Public Guardian also objected to elder rights advocates witnessing Margarita’s statements.

The Public Guardian once again denies Margarita all contact with her daughter. County Counsel Cathleen Giovannini obtained a court order denying Margarita any contact with elder rights advocates.

On December 18, 2013, Monterey County Probate Court will review Margarita’s conservatorship. Family asked that Margarita be allowed to attend her hearing and speak to the Court. The Public Guardian has not responded to the request.

The Notice of Conservatee’s Rights states Margarita’s rights with respect to the conservatorship.

Be represented by a lawyer;

Ask a judge to replace the conservator;

Ask a judge to end the conservatorship;

To date, Monterey County has denied Margarita her constitutional right of due process.

  • The Public Guardian removed Margarita from her daughter's home and imprisoned her without authority.
  • The Public Guardian seized Margarita’s assets and income, preventing her from retaining legal counsel.
  • The Public Guardian denied Margarita her right to attend her conservatorship hearing in June 2013.
  • The Public Guardian denied Margarita her right to a jury trial.
  • The Public Guardian and County Counsel obtained a court order stripping Margarita of her constitutional rights.

The Public Guardian reports to the Board of Supervisors. Readers may contact the Board of Supervisors and encourage them to allow Margarita her right to address the court on December 18, 2013.

Monterey County Board of Supervisors

District 1: Fernando Armenta,

District 2: Louis R. Calcagno,

District 3: Simón Salinas,

District 4: Jane Parker,

District 5: Dave Potter,



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