THWARTED: My Attempts To Help Aging Parents Met With Resistance, Indifference

By Lee White

UPDATE 5:48 p.m. CDT June 12, 2016: My mother, Ocella White, passed away a week ago today at Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital. The massive infection she acquired as a result of the fall and/or her living conditions was just too much for her body to handle. Click here for her obituary. My father, Leon White, was released from Via Christi-St. Joseph Medical Center on June 8, the same day as my mother’s funeral, and is living in a private care home near Rose Hill High School. It is my sincere hope that by sharing this story, I can prevent other families from having to endure what happened to us. I wish to thank Dr. Paige Dodson and the nursing and social services staff at Susan B. Allen for providing excellent care to my mother in her final days.

It was about 1:45 p.m. Thursday. I was sitting in an examination room at the University of Kansas Medical Center. My wife, Sherri, was about to meet with her neurologist to discuss treatment for multiple sclerosis. I was playing with my iPhone as a researcher from the University of Missouri-Kansas City asked Sherri questions related to a study she was doing on how MS patients decide whether to use disease-modifying drugs.

A message popped up on Facebook Messenger. It was Diane Solorio at Vintage Place in El Dorado. She told me to call her right away. It was an emergency. I walked out into the hallway and called.

My mother, Ocella White, 84, had fallen. EMS was taking her to Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital. My dad, Leon White, 85, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, hadn’t been able to tell the staff that she needed help, so she had laid on the floor for about three days. They were trying to get him to come to the main building from the independent-living apartment where they resided. It wasn’t safe for him to stay alone.

It hadn’t been safe for both parents to live alone for quite some time. I had tried repeatedly to help them — earnestly and desperately since early-2012 — but I had been thwarted at every turn by my mother, by their doctor, and by the system. It wouldn’t take long before I would discover that this latest episode would end much like all the others: With frustration, anger, and my resolving never to get involved again.

When Sherri and I arrived at the hospital, my mother was sleeping, sort of doubled over in bed, her breathing labored. We awakened her and Sherri, a disabled nurse who wears a weighted BalanceWear vest when she’s not using her cane, asked Mother some questions.

Mother had no broken bones. She had serious wounds on her swollen legs, a urinary tract infection from being unable to make it to the bathroom for days, and needed oxygen and a diuretic for congestive heart failure. Neither parent had apparently been taking medications at home for the past two and a half months.

We had brought documents known as durable powers of attorney for health care for both parents. These documents, which gave me authority to make health care decisions in the event they became incapable of doing so, worked well for us Thursday night and Friday.

While still at the hospital with my mother, I received a call from the nurse at Vintage Place. She told me they could keep my dad in the locked Alzheimer’s unit overnight, but that he was too bad off to stay there on a long-term basis. She suggested taking him to Via Christi St. Joseph Medical Center in Wichita for an evaluation. We left the hospital, picked up my dad at Vintage Place, and headed to St. Joe. It was a little before 10 p.m. when we arrived at the emergency room.

The doctor asked all the usual questions. Who is the president? What day is it? Where are you? The guy who graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1953, was a whiz at calculus when slide rules were all the rage, and who earned Navy fighter jet wings couldn’t get a single answer right. He thought his wife’s name was Della. That was his mother’s name. He thought he’d been married twice. He hadn’t. In his pockets were his eyeglasses, some change, a Kleenex, and his Naval Academy class ring. We would locate his wallet the next day in his bathroom at home.

With the help of a lovely young admissions clerk named Ysenia, we were able to find my dad’s Medicare Advantage plan information (the one he has because I raised hell four years ago) and got him admitted to the hospital. In addition to the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, tests revealed kidney disease and a left bundle branch block of the heart. He was taken upstairs to the locked senior psychiatric unit. He was wandering the halls when we finished signing paperwork and left about 3:30 a.m.

We would take him some clothes the next day — the ones he had on smelled awful — but we were dead tired and needed to take care of my mother’s admission paperwork. We checked into a motel in El Dorado, got a few hours of sleep, and headed to Susan B. Allen where we met with a social worker and I signed paperwork. I also spoke with a social worker at St. Joe by phone about my dad’s condition.

Mother was busy with therapists who had her using a walker to get to the bathroom. A bit later, a technician came in to do an ultrasound of her heart. We excused ourselves to go eat lunch at a local burrito restaurant — the first real meal we’d had since lunch the previous day — and to go fetch clothes for my dad.

We met with Solorio, a classmate of mine who is the administrator at Vintage Place. At the time, the plan was to keep my folks at least in the same building, perhaps at Presbyterian Manor in Wichita (a suggestion from one of the social workers). I thanked Diane for all her help — she and everyone at Vintage Place have been wonderful — and we headed over to my parents’ apartment about 50 yards from the main building.

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The area where my mother fell.
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A slipper my mother wore with blood from a foot wound.

The last time I had visited was Mother’s Day. The place wasn’t clean then — hadn’t been since probably before I returned to visit from where we lived in Longview, Washington, the previous summer — but it didn’t reek of urine like it did Friday afternoon. What can one expect when one parent had been lying on the floor for three days and the other had Alzheimer’s so bad he routinely urinated whenever and wherever the disease dictated?

Thank God Virginia, a woman who works at Vintage Place and tries her best to look after my parents just as she did my grandmother and great aunt, had aired the place out a bit. Virginia’s sister cleaned for my folks until my dad became angry with her for doing the laundry about three years ago. Understandably, she felt unsafe and wouldn’t go back.

We gathered what clothing we could, added a couple of pairs of pajamas from Wal-Mart, and returned to St. Joe. To get into the locked unit, I lifted a telephone and gave a password to someone at the nurse’s station. The clothing had to be inspected by the staff — no belts, shoelaces, long drawstrings — they don’t want any hangings. This is a psychiatric unit, after all.

My dad seemed to know us. I don’t remember him calling us by name. At one point the night before, he mentioned that I was his son. He kept saying over and over how proud he was that we were there with him. The nurse we spoke with in the dining room as he ate dinner said he had become anxious that afternoon and they had to give him some medication. Severe weather coverage filled the TV newscast that played above the table where we sat. We spent a little bit more time visiting in his room.

The weather cleared. As exhausted as I was, I knew Sherri had to be worse. How she hadn’t simply collapsed from the effects of sleeplessness and stress on her already-fragile body, I’ll never know. We ate dinner in Wichita, stopped by to see my mother briefly, went back to the motel room, and crashed.

I woke up about 8 a.m. Saturday, grabbed a couple of large coffees at QuikTrip, showered, and returned to the hospital to visit my mother one last time before I took Sherri home to Harrisonville, Missouri. I had planned to return on Tuesday to meet with a representative of Presbyterian Manor and continue talking with social workers at both hospitals about what nursing home placement would be best for my parents.

My mother seemed better. She felt like insulting Sherri, which she had done frequently during the 20 years we have been married — especially since my parents’ conditions had deteriorated with age and Sherri and I had (stupidly, in hindsight) tried to help.

She said she had been talking to Virginia and that she wanted to stay at Vintage Place and put my dad in LakePoint. I was fine with that, but if I was going to continue making health care decisions, I didn’t want to work with Dr. Michael Rausch. You will soon discover why.

Mother made it clear that she wanted to continue seeing Dr. Rausch. I decided to settle the matter once and for all. I stepped out into the hallway and spoke with the registered nurse who was caring for my mother, a young lady named Amanda.

I asked whether she believed my mother was capable of making her own health care decisions. Amanda said she believed that she was. In that case, I told her, I would no longer be making health care decisions for either parent as the durable powers of attorney for health care granted me such authority only if both were incapable of deciding on their own care. Furthermore, I told her (and later the staff at St. Joe), I would no longer call the shots should my mother again become incapable of making her own decisions.

Sound harsh? Well, folks, this is the end of a battle I’ve been fighting for years.

It started in early 2012 when Virginia and others in the community reported that my parents’ driving skill was deteriorating along with their personal hygiene and my dad’s mental status. Sherri and I returned to Kansas from California in late February and early March 2012 and persuaded them to move into the same independent-living apartment at Vintage Place where they live today. Sherri also met with Dr. Rausch and my parents. I was attending to some of Sherri’s medical business on the phone and wasn’t in the room. Rausch said it was a good idea for my parents to move to Vintage Place and suggested they quit driving once they got settled in there.

After we left town, my mother backed out of moving to Vintage Place until I stopped talking to her for a couple of months. She eventually agreed to move. Everything I have tried to do to protect their health and safety has been met with the same sort of resistance.

Click here to view the e-mails I sent to the gentleman at Intrust Bank who manages my parents’ finances and to the attorney who drafted their trust agreement and the durable powers of attorney mentioned above. The e-mail to the attorney contains a Facebook note I wrote at the time describing the frustration I felt as a result of trying to help my parents. Oh, but it would get worse — much worse — and still nobody who could help in any meaningful way would do so.

In July 2012, I called my parents and something just didn’t seem right. My mother was slurring her words and wasn’t responding appropriately to questions. Fearing that she’d had a stroke or had let her diabetes get out of control, I called Virginia, who took my mother to the emergency room. She was admitted to the hospital for treatment of a urinary tract infection.

I left Sherri in California and returned to El Dorado. While there, I discovered that neither of my parents had been showering since they moved into the apartment in April. They claimed they had been taking sponge baths and that those were adequate. Apparently not, given my mother’s urinary tract infection.

I also observed that my dad’s mental condition had declined due to the Alzheimer’s Disease. He seemed even more confused than he had months earlier when I had visited. What if he took off in the car and became lost the way so many seniors do? Virginia was even more worried about their driving, too. They had been at Vintage Place for a few months. Relying on what Dr. Rausch said earlier in the year about giving up the keys, I issued an ultimatum: Stop driving or I’ll petition the state for re-testing.

They didn’t, I did, and Rausch signed paperwork allowing them to be re-tested. Click here to view it. Rausch stated on my mother’s form that an episode of syncope (fainting) had been related to sepsis, or the bladder infection she suffered in July. That is NOT the episode of syncope I addressed with the state. That episode happened months earlier when my mother fell while shopping at Dave’s Hallmark. She suffered a broken arm in that incident.

Amazingly, my dad passed his driving test on the first try. Remember, he got jets, so driving must not be that big of a challenge even in the throes of Alzheimer’s. It took my mother three tries, but she finally passed.

In late April 2015, I learned that my parents had been driving without licenses. I returned to Kansas from Longview, Washington, where we had been living. I brought Sherri with me this time. In addition to driving, my dad had been caught by the staff at Vintage Place urinating outside and wandering around the main building peeking in residents’ windows. Of course, my mother denied everything except some of the driving allegations.

Mother wanted to remain in the same quarters as my dad. At Vintage Place, she would have had to be in another wing because the Alzheimer’s unit is locked and the rooms there are single occupancy. We took them on a tour of LakePoint in Augusta where they could have lived together in an assisted-living unit that had alarms to keep Alzheimer’s patients from wandering away.

Mother feigned interest in LakePoint, but just as she had when we tried to get them to move to Vintage Place in 2012, she backed out as soon as we left town. I also received reports that my dad had still been driving and that Vintage Place staff had observed him walking along busy Twelfth Avenue at dawn.

On June 18, 2015, I asked the State of Kansas to step in and encourage my parents to move to safer living accommodations. The Department of Children and Families (since re-named Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services) assigned a social worker, Tammy Bland, to investigate the matter. Bland was nice to deal with and spoke with my parents, but took no action.

Bland told me by phone that if Dr. Rausch wanted to order my parents (or at least my dad) into a nursing facility, he could so. Six days after I received Bland’s letter telling me that the case had been closed, I faxed a letter to Dr. Rausch asking him to act.

“Virginia (last name withheld), who has looked after two generations of my family, called this evening to tell me that my dad became combative with her,” I wrote. “He grabbed her hand in an effort to get her car keys away from her, then swore at her and threatened to hit her.

“She is planning to call your office in the morning to ask that you utilize whatever legal means are at your disposal to have him committed because my mother still will not agree to do so. I am fully supportive of this. In fact, it is probably the only way it will happen.”

Click here to read the 2015 correspondence with Dr. Rausch, the state, the gentleman from Intrust Bank, and El Dorado Police Chief Curtis Zieman.

The nurse at Vintage Place told me she contacted the state on or about April 28, 2016, not even a month before the incident that landed my parents in the hospital, and that the state took no action.

My only option to force my parents into a safer living arrangement would be to petition a court to have myself or someone else appointed their conservator. If their physician isn’t “on board” with that idea — which Dr. Rausch obviously hasn’t been — then what chance do you think I would have in court other than to go broke paying a lawyer?

Sherri and I moved to Harrisonville just before Christmas 2015. We chose Harrisonville because Sherri has a sister who lives there. It is also close to KU Medical Center, which has MS specialists who can prescribe drugs that other neurologists can’t or won’t. The day before we left for Harrisonville, Sherri received an IV infusion of one such drug at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. Before you ask why we didn’t move to El Dorado — as if anyone in his right mind would have wanted to given the way my parents and I have been mistreated by the health care system — there’s your answer.

Everybody dies. Some get old before they do. Some don’t. Regardless, the incident that occurred last week was entirely foreseeable and preventable had either Dr. Rausch or the State of Kansas acted when I asked them to. For its part, I think the people on duty at Susan B. Allen yesterday could have done something other than nothing when I told them what I was about to do. I don’t give a damn what day of the week it was.

This time, I meant it when I said I’m done trying to help people who don’t want my help. Given that they are my parents, I have tried to help for far longer than I would have anyone else. I’m done.

Augusta Chief Accuses Rose Hill City Administrator of Defamation

By Lee White

Augusta Department of Public Safety Chief Tyler Brewer has sent a letter to the mayor and city council in Rose Hill accusing that city’s administrator of defamation. But Rose Hill’s mayor and city administrator say the situation did not transpire as described in Brewer’s letter.

Brewer said in the letter that the remarks from Rose Hill City Administrator Austin Gilley came during an employee meeting the mayor and members of the police department attended. Click here to view a copy of the letter.

“The City Administrator’s comment was that I hired Bob Sage so that a gay Sergeant employed by the City of Augusta would not ultimately become the Chief of Police,” Brewer wrote in the letter dated May 13. “This statement is completely false, defamatory, and done to impugn my character.”

Sage resigned as Rose Hill’s police chief on March 21, according to this story from KAKE-TV. A statement Sage issued indicated he had clashed with former Mayor Jason Jones, who resigned two weeks before Sage did, as well as the new mayor who replaced Jones, Beth Pompa.

Brewer said in his letter that a phone call he made to Pompa had not been returned. He asked the mayor and council to take disciplinary action against Gilley and issue an apology.

At the bottom of the letter, Brewer indicated that he had sent copies to three individuals — Augusta City Manager Josh Shaw, City Attorney Stephen Robison, of the Wichita law firm Fleeson Gooing, and an Augusta sergeant. Watchdog has redacted the sergeant’s name and will not report it because we do not know whether he was the individual named in the rumor. Multiple sources say the sergeant named in the letter is a good law enforcement officer.

Julie Winslow, a community activist, said she confronted Brewer about the matter by phone this afternoon (May 25). Winslow also serves as a township clerk.

Winslow said in this statement e-mailed to Watchdog that Brewer said he’d been advised by his attorney not to discuss the letter.

“The person that was written to should not have made that (letter) a public record,” Brewer told Winslow, according to the statement. Winslow said she believes the letter is public record under Kansas law.

Winslow said she asked Brewer to apologize to Rose Hill officials. She said Brewer replied, “I will not!” and hung up on her.

Rose Hill Mayor Beth Pompa said in this letter to Brewer that she attended the meeting where officials discussed the rumor about the Augusta sergeant.

“The purpose of the meeting was to discuss my expectations of the officers and City Administrator,” Pompa wrote. “One part of the conversation was in regard to recent rumors and how they quickly spread.

“Mr. Gilley stated he had heard that day a rumor from the City of Augusta that Bob Sage was hired in Augusta to replace Chief Brewer upon his retirement because they didn’t want the Sergeant who is gay to become the Chief. One of the Rose Hill Officers, I don’t remember who, stated that they had heard something similar. We all commented how ridiculous that rumor was, including Mr. Gilley.”

Gilley responded to the allegations in this letter to Mayor Pompa. He said the March 30, 2016, meeting was conducted “for the purpose of helping everyone clear the air and move on from the recent leadership change (Sage’s resignation).”

“To illustrate the ridiculous nature of rumors, I shared the rumor that I had heard that same day from an employee of the City of Augusta,” Gilley wrote. “I recall one of the officers even saying they had heard that one, too.

“I was making the point that rumors can be ridiculous and hurtful — which I know well having been on the receiving end of many painful rumors. Never once did I state what I had heard as fact, and I would not have shared this rumor except for in the context of illustrating that not everything you hear is truth.”

Gilley apologized for any hurt feelings and offered to speak with anyone about the matter.

For his part, Sage is seeking appointment to fill the vacant seat on the Rose Hill City Council created by Jones’ resignation. Sage lives in Rose Hill and works as a detective for the Augusta Department of Public Safety.

“It is with extreme humiliation as a citizen of Rose Hill that I have sat back and watched a growing public perception and recognition of the dysfunction within our city government,” Sage wrote in this e-mail to the council. “Citizens deserve better. Paralysis created by mistrust and
parochial thinking has caused our City to lose its once reveled reputation of being the community of choice.”

Sage said he will run for office if the council’s failure to appoint a replacement for Jones triggers a special election.

Sage’s entry into consideration for the vacant council position follows an embarrassing moment for County Commissioner Dan Woydziak — a Sage supporter — who submitted this letter on March 16 to the Rose Hill City Council seeking to be appointed. Woydziak is president of the Kansas Association of Counties.

Woydziak later withdrew from consideration, telling the Butler County Times-Gazette in this April 2 story that he couldn’t work with Gilley. Although there is undoubtedly animosity between Woydziak and Gilley, that is probably not the real reason Woydziak withdrew.

Winslow, a frequent attendee at county commission meetings, said she approached commissioners at a subsequent meeting and asked to be appointed to fill the upcoming vacancy to be created when Woydziak took a seat on the Rose Hill City Council.

K.S.A. 19-205 states: “no person holding any state, county, township or city office shall be eligible to the office of county commissioner in any county in this state.” Had Woydziak been appointed to the Rose Hill City Council, he would have had to resign his county commission seat for which, according to this Times-Gazette story, he receives an annual salary of $28,072.

Butler Cold Cases: A Mysterious Winter Barn Death

By Lee White

UPDATE 9:29 a.m. 11/9/2017: Click here to view the unredacted autopsy report of the individual who died in the barn. Jerry D. Yeager, 59, was found with a gunshot wound in a barn at 10502 SE Pickrell, Leon, on December 29, 2002. The Butler County Sheriff’s Department apparently considers this an active investigation because some people requested documents from the case file and were denied access because the case was deemed to be open. If you have any information, please contact the Sheriff’s Department.

Butler County has its share of unsolved homicides and “suspicious deaths.” Among the so-called cold cases: The part-time Register of Deeds office worker, Kay Gordin, who died when someone fired a 12-gauge shotgun through the window of her car as she drove toward her rural El Dorado home on K-96 the evening of Nov. 8, 1982. Click here for details. The county’s most infamous cold case is the disappearance of 11-year-old Adam Herrman. Here’s a fairly recent account from KAKE-TV.

Then there are the ones nobody has ever heard of. This is one such case.

I struggled with how much information to release about the victim and location. I settled on this: The victim was a 59-year-old man and the incident occurred Dec. 29, 2001, near Pickrell Corner (click here for map).

Releasing names and locations is something I carefully consider. I have to balance sensitivities and safety with the public’s legitimate need to know. I try to err on the side of giving readers the most information I can. I hope I make the right calls.

The day was cold, sunny, and blustery. Shortly after noon, as a north wind made 24 degrees feel like 12, a woman returned to her home about halfway between Leon and Augusta to find her husband lying face down with a gunshot wound to his head in a horse barn. Butler County EMS responded and took the man to Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital in El Dorado, but it was too late. He was pronounced dead at 1:26 p.m.

Detective Kelly Herzet was assigned to the case. Herzet is the current Butler County sheriff. Herzet, who attended the autopsy with another detective, reported to Coroner Dr. Ron Varner that the victim had no prior medical history and no history of suicide attempts or talk of suicide.

The victim had a few health concerns, but nothing really out of the ordinary for a guy his age. The pathologist who performed his autopsy at the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center, Dr. Mary Dudley, reported he suffered from a type of kidney disease common in people with diabetes and high blood pressure. He had an enlarged prostate. There was some evidence of early heart disease. No drugs or alcohol were found in his system.

Although the man died of a gunshot wound, the physicians ruled the manner of death undetermined. In other words, they couldn’t decide whether he killed himself or someone murdered him. There are clues in the autopsy report that point toward the latter conclusion. Click here to view the report.

“In the right upper lip, centered 62 1/2 inches above the heel, and 1/4 inch right of the midline, is a 1/4 inch oval entrance gunshot wound,” the report reads. “There is a 1/4 inch abrasion rim, and a possible 1/4 inch circumferential area of soot at the 12 to 1 o’clock margin.

“There is stippling (small abrasions from unburned gunpowder and debris) surrounding the wound which measures 4 inches from the radius at the 11 o’clock margin, 1 1/2 inch at the 12 o’clock margin, 3 1/2 inches at the 3 o’clock margin, and 1 inch at the 6 o’clock margin.”

The report states that the victim was shot at “intermediate range.” If suicide was his goal, he didn’t get the gun inside his mouth. The bullet was medium-caliber and a handgun was found near the body at the scene. The report does not say exactly what caliber of gun was used.

The website “The Truth About Forensic Science” offers this definition of intermediate-range gunshot wounds:

“…intermediate wounds, are formed when the muzzle is held away from the body at the time of discharge but is still sufficiently close enough that the powder grains from the muzzle can strike the skin and produce powder tattooing, which gets it name from the blackening of the skin around the entrance site caused from the soot. The size and density of these tattoos will depend on the caliber, barrel length, type of propellant powder, and the distance from the muzzle to the target. As the range away from the target increases, the intensity of powder blackening will decrease and the size of the soot pattern area will increase. The powder tattoo which results is unlike the soot in the loose contact wound in that it cannot be swiped away from the skin.”

“The wound courses from front to back, right to left, and slightly upward,” the report reads.

The bullet traveled through the maxilla (upper jaw), through his front teeth, tongue, oropharynx, second vertebra, and spinal cord and lodged in the back of his neck on the left side. There was no exit wound, leading one to believe that the gun was, indeed, fired at “intermediate range,” and not right next to the head.

But the gunshot wound wasn’t the only visible injury. There was blunt trauma to the forehead and area around the left eye that might have resulted from a fight.

“There is a 3 x 3 1/2 inch discontinuous red-brown abrasion over the central forehead and left forehead above the left eyebrow,” the autopsy report reads. “A 1 1/2 inch oval red-brown abrasion is on the lateral aspect (side) of the left eye. A 1 x 1/2 inch red-brown abrasion is on the nasal bridge.”

One other thing: The victim was found with his gloves on. Now, the report doesn’t say what kind of gloves, but if I was working in a barn when it felt like 12 degrees outside, I’d be wearing something fairly substantial on my mitts. And if I decided to shoot myself, I’d take the darned things off first so I could work the trigger better– at least one glove anyway.

There are rumors. There are always rumors. I have heard some, but I try to live by the mantra of Dragnet’s Joe Friday: “Just the facts, ma’am!”

Have any facts about this case or any other? Call 911 or your local law enforcement agency. If you have something you’d like to share with the Watchdog, call our hotline at (716) BUTLER-D that’s (716) 288-5373.

Deed Sheds Light On Flinthills Client’s Housing Situation

By Lee White

In this blog post, I discussed a Flinthills Services, Inc. client who signed a quitclaim deed giving up rights to his home in Burns. At the time, I did not know exactly what rights he gave up when he signed the deed. Now, I do.

Let’s review. Northview Developmental Services, Inc., of Newton, which had acquired the home from a couple in 1994, sold its rights to the client’s property to Flinthills via quitclaim deed on April 4, 2011. On April 26, 2011, client Dwayne Suffield signed a quitclaim deed gifting his rights to Flinthills. Click here to view those deeds.

Unclear at the time of the original blog post: What rights was Suffield giving up when he signed the quitclaim deed? This morning, I obtained another deed signed September 4, 1998, in which Northview granted Suffield property rights commonly referred to as a “life estate:”

“…for and during his natural life provided that he should occupy the real estate at all times. In the event of the death of Dwayne Suffield or should he not occupy the real estate for 365 continuous days, the real estate shall revert and become the property of Northview Developmental Services, Inc.”

Click here to view a copy of this deed. People with life estates typically do not pay rent. They usually do pay property taxes, homeowners insurance premiums, and maintenance costs.

The effects of Suffield signing a quitclaim deed — if the deed were held to be valid by a judge, which is a big “if” due to his possible lack of capacity to sign away his rights — are far reaching. With a life estate, Suffield could have lived in the home until he either died or was gone (say, in a nursing or group home) for 365 days. Without that life estate, he is essentially a tenant of Flinthills and may be subject to eviction. Had he not signed the deed, Flinthills would have received full rights to the property upon Suffield’s death or year-long absence.

I am forwarding information about this deed to the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS). It is my sincere hope that KDADS and Suffield’s conservator, if he has one, will take this matter up with an attorney who is well-versed in real property law.

Democrat? Want To Help Pick Sheriff? BETTER HURRY!

Voters have until noon, June 1 to change party affiliations. The deadline coincides with the candidate filing deadline and is the result of a law the Kansas Legislature passed in 2014. Click here to read more in The Butler County Times-Gazette.

Thus far, no Democratic candidates have filed for the office of Butler County Sheriff. That means only voters who are registered Republicans can cast ballots in the sheriff’s race on August 2 unless a Democrat files at the last minute. There are two ways Democrats can get involved, but they must act before the deadline:

  1. Register as a Republican before noon, June 1. Voters can always change party affiliations after the primary election is over.
  2. Register as Unaffiliated before noon, June 1. At the polls, an unaffiliated voter can declare a party affiliation and receive a Republican ballot.

Not sure whether you’re registered or what your party affiliation is? Click here to look up your registration information using Kansas Voter View. For more information about voter registration, contact the Butler County Election Office at (316) 322-4239.

A New Low For Flinthills, Butler County Government

By Lee White

I have been burning up this keyboard the past 24 hours since I learned that Flinthills Services had filed a bogus complaint against me with the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) for reporting on the possible exploitation of one of its clients as described in a federal whistleblower lawsuit.

My phone call yesterday with Kathy Walter, Flinthills executive director, was a decidedly unpleasant one. Sure, I was upset. Who likes having complaints filed against them — especially when they are thinly-veiled attempts by a public agency to stifle constitutionally-protected free speech?

But Walter was rude and arrogant to me when it was her agency that was likely at fault. Instead of addressing the problems with her own employees that led to the situation with the client, she chose to hide behind a mandatory reporting requirement and come after me. Shoot the messenger.

What a failure as a leader Ms. Walter is!

I wouldn’t entrust my worst enemy to the care of Flinthills after the experience I have had with her and the Cowards of the County (Commissioners) who appoint its board of directors. They and County Administrator Will Johnson have refused to address my grievances in any way. I can see why Ms. Walter got the job. She fits in nicely in Butler County government.

I broke absolutely no laws by publicly identifying the client in question. I only did so because it was necessary to show his signature to illustrate that he might have been taken advantage of. Ms. Walter would have known that I didn’t break the law had she bothered to read it. Click here to read the state law concerning abuse, neglect, or exploitation of adults. Who do you think really may have broken the law? Furthermore, if Ms. Walter’s understanding of this important law is so poor that she believed I violated it, how can she be expected to protect the clients in her care?

I have faxed a letter to KDADS Interim Secretary Tim Keck asking him to launch an investigation into whether the client was exploited when he signed a quitclaim deed in 2011 gifting the rights to his house to Flinthills.

That’s not all. I contacted the media, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, the deputy U.S. attorney overseeing Canady’s case, and the county attorneys of Marion and Butler Counties. The only people I’ve heard from: A producer at KWCH-TV and Marion County Clerk Tina Spencer, who was working late last night and notified me that the parcel search system was down. You folks in Marion County need to keep that hard-working lady in office!

Another one I never heard from (didn’t really expect to) was Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet, who is now president of the Flinthills Board of Directors and has been a member of the board since shortly before Canady’s firing in March 2012. Is Sheriff Herzet supportive of Walter’s actions in filing the complaint against me? Did this happen because I support Walker Andrews for sheriff? One wonders. One really wonders.

I will continue to write about the deep-seated problems in Butler County government. I will not be deterred by these foolish tactics. Although I do not live there for many reasons — some completely unrelated to the awful public officials and the people who vote themselves the spoils of democracy by keeping them in office — I still have friends and family in Butler County. I’m probably the only one left with the skills and long-term knowledge to do what I do effectively. Not bragging. It’s just that nobody has killed me yet.

As for this complaint, it needs to be dropped. KDADS has better things to do than to carry out vendettas against political opponents. That’s what I believe is really going on here — just a little old-fashioned intimidation that backfired spectacularly on people who would do well to clean up the messes their people have made. And I’m not just talking about Flinthills. I’m talking about the county in general, which has seen massive turnover in its emergency medical service and in the sheriff’s department (not just the jail).

Ms. Walter needs to be disciplined for this. I really question whether she can continue to lead effectively given what has happened. It might behoove her to step aside.

As for the president of the Flinthills Board of Directors, Sheriff Herzet, it’ll be up to the voters to decide August 2 whether he continues as sheriff. It would be in his best interest politically to show some leadership and end this Flinthills debacle swiftly.

Kansas Law: Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation Of An Adult

By Lee White

Flinthills Services, Inc., a de facto Butler County public agency, is filing a complaint against me with the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) alleging that I exploited one of their clients by publishing his name, the nature of his disability, and the city where he lives. Below you will find Kansas law as it pertains to the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an adult. I will leave it to you to determine who has more to worry about here: Flinthills Services or me. Please read the earlier blog posts for details.

Article 14. – REPORTING ABUSE, NEGLECT OR EXPLOITATION OF CERTAIN PERSONS Next

 

39-1430. Abuse, neglect or exploitation of certain adults; definitions. As used in this act:

(a) ”Adult” means an individual 18 years of age or older alleged to be unable to protect their own interest and who is harmed or threatened with harm, whether financial, mental or physical in nature, through action or inaction by either another individual or through their own action or inaction when: (1) Such person is residing in such person’s own home, the home of a family member or the home of a friend; (2) such person resides in an adult family home as defined in K.S.A. 39-1501, and amendments thereto; or (3) such person is receiving services through a provider of community services and affiliates thereof operated or funded by the Kansas department for children and families or the Kansas department for aging and disability services or a residential facility licensed pursuant to K.S.A. 75-3307b, and amendments thereto. Such term shall not include persons to whom K.S.A. 39-1401 et seq., and amendments thereto, apply.

(b) ”Abuse” means any act or failure to act performed intentionally or recklessly that causes or is likely to cause harm to an adult, including:

(1) Infliction of physical or mental injury;

(2) any sexual act with an adult when the adult does not consent or when the other person knows or should know that the adult is incapable of resisting or declining consent to the sexual act due to mental deficiency or disease or due to fear of retribution or hardship;

(3) unreasonable use of a physical restraint, isolation or medication that harms or is likely to harm an adult;

(4) unreasonable use of a physical or chemical restraint, medication or isolation as punishment, for convenience, in conflict with a physician’s orders or as a substitute for treatment, except where such conduct or physical restraint is in furtherance of the health and safety of the adult;

(5) a threat or menacing conduct directed toward an adult that results or might reasonably be expected to result in fear or emotional or mental distress to an adult;

(6) fiduciary abuse; or

(7) omission or deprivation by a caretaker or another person of goods or services which are necessary to avoid physical or mental harm or illness.

(c) ”Neglect” means the failure or omission by one’s self, caretaker or another person with a duty to supply or provide goods or services which are reasonably necessary to ensure safety and well-being and to avoid physical or mental harm or illness.

(d) ”Exploitation” means misappropriation of an adult’s property or intentionally taking unfair advantage of an adult’s physical or financial resources for another individual’s personal or financial advantage by the use of undue influence, coercion, harassment, duress, deception, false representation or false pretense by a caretaker or another person.

(e) ”Fiduciary abuse” means a situation in which any person who is the caretaker of, or who stands in a position of trust to, an adult, takes, secretes, or appropriates their money or property, to any use or purpose not in the due and lawful execution of such person’s trust or benefit.

(f) ”In need of protective services” means that an adult is unable to provide for or obtain services which are necessary to maintain physical or mental health or both.

(g) ”Services which are necessary to maintain physical or mental health or both” include, but are not limited to, the provision of medical care for physical and mental health needs, the relocation of an adult to a facility or institution able to offer such care, assistance in personal hygiene, food, clothing, adequately heated and ventilated shelter, protection from health and safety hazards, protection from maltreatment the result of which includes, but is not limited to, malnutrition, deprivation of necessities or physical punishment and transportation necessary to secure any of the above stated needs, except that this term shall not include taking such person into custody without consent except as provided in this act.

(h) ”Protective services” means services provided by the state or other governmental agency or by private organizations or individuals which are necessary to prevent abuse, neglect or exploitation. Such protective services shall include, but shall not be limited to, evaluation of the need for services, assistance in obtaining appropriate social services, and assistance in securing medical and legal services.

(i) ”Caretaker” means a person who has assumed the responsibility, whether legally or not, for an adult’s care or financial management or both.

(j) ”Secretary” means the secretary for the Kansas department for children and families.

(k) ”Report” means a description or accounting of an incident or incidents of abuse, neglect or exploitation under this act and for the purposes of this act shall not include any written assessment or findings.

(l) ”Law enforcement” means the public office which is vested by law with the duty to maintain public order, make arrests for crimes, investigate criminal acts and file criminal charges, whether that duty extends to all crimes or is limited to specific crimes.

(m) ”Involved adult” means the adult who is the subject of a report of abuse, neglect or exploitation under this act.

(n) ”Legal representative,” “financial institution” and “governmental assistance provider” shall have the meanings ascribed thereto in K.S.A. 39-1401, and amendments thereto.

No person shall be considered to be abused, neglected or exploited or in need of protective services for the sole reason that such person relies upon spiritual means through prayer alone for treatment in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination in lieu of medical treatment.

History: L. 1989, ch. 129, § 1; L. 1998, ch. 200, § 8; L. 2003, ch. 91, § 11; L. 2014, ch. 115, § 167; July 1.

 

Flinthills Files Complaint With State Against Blogger

By Lee White

UPDATE 11:00 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, 2016: Just received an e-mail from the Marion County Clerk stating that the entire parcel search feature on the county’s website has been down this evening. 

UPDATE 12:55 a.m. Thursday, May 19, 2016: A gentleman from a Wichita TV station asked me why I chose to use Mr. Suffield’s name in the first place. I did so because I believed there was no other way to illustrate the POSSIBILITY that he signed the quitclaim deed without knowing what he was signing or the ramifications of signing it. To do that, I had to publish his signature from the quitclaim deed. Now, I’m being investigated and punished because I had the audacity to expose potential wrongdoing. Unf——believable! 

UPDATE 8:45 a.m. Thursday, May 19, 2016: The Marion County Appraiser’s parcel search feature is functioning again (see link below).

UPDATE 10:15 a.m. Thursday, May 19, 2016: I have just faxed Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck. I am asking his agency to investigate whether employees of Flinthills Services, Inc. or anyone else has committed financial wrongdoing to the client from Burns who signed a quitclaim deed in 2011 gifting his rights to his home to Flinthills. Click here to view the letter. 

Flinthills Services Executive Director Kathy Walter confirmed by phone this afternoon that the agency has filed an Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation (ANE) complaint against me for writing this earlier blog post. The complaint alleges that I exploited Flinthills client Dwayne Suffield by reporting his name, the city where he lives, and the fact that he is developmentally disabled. Walter said her agency is required by law to report what it believes are instances of exploitation to the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and does so without expressing an opinion on the merits of the case.

This is clearly an attempt to silence critics and to divert attention from one of the central questions posed in the blog post mentioned above: Why did Dwayne Suffield sign a quitclaim deed gifting Flinthills Services all rights to the home where he was living in Burns (and who might have encouraged him to do so)? In her federal whistleblower lawsuit against Flinthills detailed in the blog post, plaintiff Gloria Canady alleged financial wrongdoing against a client with the initials D.S.

I obtained Mr. Suffield’s name from public records and other sources including this page I captured in 2012 from Flinthills’ own website. Those photos appeared to match these pictures of the house that came from the Marion County website. I drove from my home in suburban Kansas City, Missouri, to the Marion County Courthouse on April 22 to obtain a copy of the quitclaim deed, which you may view — along with other deeds related to the property in question — by clicking here.

I knew which deeds to look for by doing a parcel search on the Marion County Appraiser’s website. I have redacted the street address, but you can view the results I obtained in April by clicking here. I heard from the Marion County Clerk late on the evening of May 18, 2016, that the parcel search feature on the website had been down. You’re always welcome to perform your own search at the above link to the appraiser’s website.

Beyond being a thinly-veiled attempt to distract public attention from the real issues presented in the earlier blog post, I believe Flinthills’ actions are an attack on my First Amendment rights under color of law. Flinthills is a publicly-funded agency with a board of directors appointed by the Butler County Commission. Public officials should be way more concerned about investigating whatever happened to Mr. Suffield in 2011 than they apparently are in investigating my efforts to expose it.

I am contacting the Kansas Attorney General’s office, the deputy U.S. attorney assigned to Canady’s case, Canady’s attorneys, and the news media in the Wichita, Topeka, and Kansas City metropolitan areas. I am also sending an e-mail voicing my strenuous objections to these tactics to the Butler and Marion County commissioners and a letter to KDADS Interim Secretary Tim Keck.

Fraud At Flinthills? Fired Employee Files Federal Whistleblower Lawsuit

A former employee of Flinthills Services, Inc. has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Wichita against the agency alleging she was fired and prevented from seeking work elsewhere because she was planning to report Medicaid fraud and other abuses to authorities. The employee, Gloria Canady, of El Dorado, worked for Flinthills from 1994 until March 2, 2012, when she was fired. Click here to view a copy of Canady’s complaint.

The chief allegation in Canady’s lawsuit is violation of the federal False Claims Act. This type of case is typically referred to as a whistleblower lawsuit. The False Claims Act allows individuals who believe they have faced retaliation for complaining about fraud against a federal program to sue the perpetrators on behalf of the U.S. government. One of the more well-known whistleblower cases in the recent past resulted in pharmaceutical giant Pfizer paying a $2.3 billion settlement. One of the attorneys representing Canady in her lawsuit, Robert K. Collins, of Topeka, took time off from law school to help his brother pursue a whistleblower case against Pfizer, according to this story in the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Also named as defendants in the case — filed under seal (secretly) in 2014 but since made public — are the Community Developmental Disability Organization of Butler County, Inc. (CDDO), an intake agency for those seeking services that is technically separate from Flinthills but shares the same board of directors; Jonathan Henak, Flinthills’ former chief financial officer and interim director; and Sandstone Homes I, LLC, an Omaha, Neb.-based corporation that owns group housing facilities for Flinthills’ clients.

As of May 12, Sandstone was listed as “delinquent” with the Kansas Secretary of State for failing to file an annual report on April 15. Henak is still listed as registered agent at Flinthills’ office location, although his Linked-In profile indicates he left the agency in February 2015.

Although not named as defendants in the lawsuit, some of the biggest names in Butler County politics were or are involved with Flinthills and two have direct involvement in the case. They include:

  • State Rep. Will Carpenter, R-El Dorado. Prior to serving in the Kansas Legislature, Carpenter was a Butler County Commissioner from 2001 to 2009. In 2004, Carpenter sold a piece of property at 917 Oak Street, El Dorado, to Tres Amigos Development, LLC, a now-defunct corporation best known for the Constant Creek development on El Dorado’s west side. Tres Amigos sold the property to Sandstone in 2007 and a group home for Flinthills clients was built there in 2008. Defense attorney Mark A. Kanaga last November subpoenaed Carpenter’s sale-related records. Click here to view the subpoena.
  • Mary Martha Good, R-El Dorado, Carpenter’s 2016 primary election opponent. Good is a former Flinthills board member. Canady accuses Good of telling Neil Benson, of El Dorado, that Canady’s firing was related to some sort of criminal activity, but when Canady questioned Good, Good did not say what the activity was, only that Flinthills was not pursuing charges. Benson is the widow of longtime Butler County District Court Judge Page Benson. The Bensons were instrumental in starting Flinthills in the mid-1990s as part of their decades of advocacy for the developmentally disabled.
  • Sheriff Kelly Herzet, who has not been subpoenaed to testify or provide documents, but who serves as president of Flinthills’ board of directors. County commissioners, who approve all appointments, originally named Herzet to the board on January 3, 2012, about two months before Canady’s firing, to replace Carpenter’s wife, Ann. Ann Carpenter is Juvenile Justice Authority coordinator for the Thirteenth Judicial District, which includes Butler County.

Although this case could play a role in the 2016 Butler County election cycle, it likely won’t be decided anytime soon. Whistleblower lawsuits are notoriously complex, costly, and time-consuming and this one is no different. Trial in this case is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. May 8, 2017, before U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn H. Vratil in Wichita.

Early Concerns

In the complaint, Canady’s attorney writes that, although she witnessed many instances of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of clients during her employment, most of her concerns arose beginning in 2006. That was the year Canady discussed potential Medicaid fraud with co-worker Pat Hicks, who performed billing for Flinthills.

“Then-Director Dana Korkki had overheard the conversation between Hicks and (Canady) and, within six hours, discharged Hicks (forced to take early retirement) with a stipulation that she could only receive her severance and retirement if she no longer communicated with (Canady),” the complaint states. “Korkki had Hicks’ office emptied within 24 hours of that conversation, and Flinthills didn’t have a Medicaid biller for six months thereafter.”

Among the alleged Medicaid fraud Canady witnessed:

  • Ineligible individuals receiving Home & Community Based Services (HCBS) funds,
  • Flinthills continuing to bill Medicaid when clients left group homes to spend time with friends or family,
  • Assessment scores that inaccurately portrayed the severity of clients’ conditions so as to increase Medicaid and other public funding reimbursement, and
  • Failure to maintain required documentation of client assessments.

“In 2006, Flinthills Services, Inc. Board of Directors voted to separate the service side from the CDDO side of Flinthills Services in order to create an unbiased single-point of entry connecting individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities to the network of service providers in Butler County,” reads a statement from Flinthills’ website that is included in the complaint. Yet Canady claims she felt pressured to require less eligibility documentation from Flinthills than from other agencies while working for the CDDO and was chastised for requiring Flinthills caseworkers to take potential clients and their families on tours of competing service providers.

The 917 Oak Street Group Home

Flinthills Services opened a group home at 917 Oak Street, El Dorado, in 2008. In her complaint, Canady contends that the home, which has nine beds and at times has housed as many as 10 individuals, serves more clients than Medicaid regulations allow.

“Kansas’ Handbook for Home and Community Based Services, which governs the billing rules for all CDDOS and Service Providers for the Developmentally Disabled who contract with Medicaid in Kansas expressly states, ‘Residential Supports for adults are provided for individuals 18 years of age or older and must occur in a setting, without regard to siblings, where the person does not live with someone who meets the definition of family, and are provided by entities licensed by Community Supports and Services. HCBS MR/DD Residential Supports will NOT be offered in a setting nine beds or larger in size,'” according to the complaint.

Canady alleges she was met with resistance when she questioned the legality of billing Medicaid for services provided in a too-large group home. Korkki, who was Flinthills director during the home’s construction, said the rule didn’t apply because the building was a duplex, the complaint states, but the building permit was not for a duplex and the facility was not identified in county documents as a duplex. Canady raised the issue multiple times with Henak, who insisted the state had granted a waiver allowing nine beds but would never produce documentation to back up his assertion.

Marion County Deed 

suffieldsignature

The complaint identifies several clients by initials to protect their privacy. One such client is D.S., one of three Canady was planning to mention in a report to authorities concerning “financial wrongdoing.”  D.S., according to the complaint, was at times housed at 917 Oak Street, including while floors in the house where he lived were being repaired.

Butler County Watchdog has identified the client through public records and other sources as Dwayne Suffield, who lives in Burns. These photographs obtained from the Flinthills website in 2012 show “several of those who helped to re-do Dewayne’s (sic) home in Burns gathered for a cookout provided by FSI.” Those photos of the house appear to match these pictures obtained from the Marion County website.

Jon and Tina Nelson sold the house where Suffield lives to Northview Developmental Services, Inc., of Newton in 1994. Northview sold the house to Flinthills via a quitclaim deed dated April 4, 2011. On April 26, 2011, Suffield signed a quitclaim deed gifting his property rights to Flinthills. Both deeds were recorded on April 29, 2011. Click here to view the deeds.

UPDATED: Click here for an explanation of why Suffield signed the quitclaim deed and the rights he gave up by doing so.

There is also the question of whether Suffield had sufficient mental capacity to sign the deed — did he understand what he was signing and the consequences of doing so?  These issues may be addressed further if the case makes it to trial. A quitclaim deed simply conveys whatever interest one has in property to another with no guarantee that any interest actually exists. Click here for a definition from The Law Dictionary.

Crashes, Shredding & Smears

In what would be her final days as a Flinthills employee, Canady alleges she experienced strange occurrences with her and her co-workers’ computers.

“One early morning shortly before (Canady’s) March 2, 2012 termination, while (Canady) and (Dale) Tower were in the CDDO office, (Canady) was startled to see each of their computers turn on by themselves, and then the cursor begin to move around on the screen,” the complaint states. “Tower explained to (Canady) that that was ‘just Jonathan [Defendant Henak],’ and that Henak often accessed the computers in the office from home.”

The day before CDDO Director Tower was fired on March 1, 2012, his, Canady’s, and Assistant CDDO Director Angela Fullerton’s computers all crashed, according to the complaint. Canady suspected Henak of accessing materials she was about to turn over to authorities and of deliberately crashing the computers. Fullerton was fired the same day as Canady.

Canady alleges that Henak shredded multiple documents Flinthills was required by law to keep, including some that were related to her allegations.

“And when (Canady) went in to the CDDO office, on or about March 6, 2012, for her allocated fifteen minutes to gather her personal belongings, the Flinthills shredding bins were inside the CDDO office at 226 South Main Street and Henak was throwing everything into the shredding bins right in front of (Canady),” the complaint alleges.

In its answer, Flinthills states that its clients operate shredders as part of the work they do; however, Canady’s complaint indicates the shredding she witnessed occurred at the CDDO office downtown, not at Flinthills’ main office at 505 S. Walnut Valley Road, El Dorado, where the shredding business is located. Click here to view the defendants’ answer in which they mostly deny outright or deny knowledge of Canady’s allegations.

After she was fired, Canady alleges that Henak and others connected with Flinthills made it difficult for her not only to find work in the social services arena but to find work at all by making false statements about her including allegations of theft. One report came from the quality assurance manager at Creative Community Living, another provider of services to the developmentally disabled.

“Della Moore informed (Canady) that, at the next board meeting after (Canady), Fullerton and Tower were terminated, Henak stated publicly that they had been stealing money,” the complaint alleges. “And the letter from Fullerton to the County Commissioners stated that Fullerton had learned that people in the community were being told falsely by Henak and others at Flinthills that (Canady), Fullerton and Tower lacked college degrees.”

State and federal law enforcement agencies have been made aware of the lawsuit. A source says he gave the FBI office in Wichita a copy of Canady’s complaint. He said agents told him they were referring the matter to the white collar crime unit. I also sent a letter to the FBI to make agents aware of the situation concerning the quitclaim deed discussed above and this later development described in another blog post. Law enforcement agencies typically do not confirm or deny the existence of a criminal investigation.

In addition to three times the amount of false Medicaid claims plus $11,000 for each false claim on the count of violating the False Claims Act), Canady is seeking in excess of the statutory minimum of $75,000 on each of five other counts. She is also seeking reinstatement to her job with pay and benefits and legal fees.