In May 2021, in response to public outcry for reform, The Florida Court Clerks and Comptroller’s Association announced the Guardianship Improvement Task Force.
Thursday, September 23rd, 2021, from 9 AM-3 PM, is the last meeting. The public will hear the Task Force’s recommendations to state executive, legislative, and judicial leadership. Public comments, delivered at 2:30 PM. A Press Conference with advocates at 3:00 PM. Florida State University, Turnbull Conference Center, 555 W Pensacola St, Tallahassee, FL 32301
Citizen activists will converge to give feedback and voice their commitment to protection. At the last in-person meeting, family members pled for change. The task force is predominately lawyers and judges. It also includes Chante’ Jones. Jones was appointed in 2020 as the Director of the Office of Public and Professional Guardians (OPPG). This after the agency’s first director Carol Berkowitz resigned, and professional guardians Rebecca Fierle and Traci Hudson were criminally charged. The public outrage at the system’s brokenness is squarely directed at many individuals sitting on this task force and their colleagues.
The task force has deliberated publicly for over 16 hours. They have heard public testimony on the victimization of what may be thousands of vulnerable Floridians. Families feel the abuse is often legally perpetrated by attorneys and guardians, exploiting the vulnerable for profit, in a system that protects those professionals.
The only county that independently audited probate court records, in Florida history, Orange County. Comptroller Phil Diamond’s March 2021 report condemned the court for negligence, mismanagement, and fraud. In Palm Beach County, a county plagued with problems, Sharon Bock, the clerk, and comptroller, recently left the Clerk’s Office, after accusations of bribery surfaced. Anthony Palmieri, the Deputy Inspector General in that county, has a seat on the committee. Other counties have their own scandalous stories. Families accuse leadership, Florida Bar, and agencies that should provide oversight of willful ignorance.
An order for guardianship removes an individual’s civil rights and transfers their estate to a third-party, granting others the right to charge the estate indiscriminately. The clerk’s association estimated 40,000-70,000 adults were under guardianship in the state in 2020. Lack of disclosure a prevalent problem. Florida State Bar leadership has demanded the census and assets for these cases be kept secret. The public also looking for quantitative data citing a right to know how this system affects them and their families.