I-Team Investigation: Stuck in the System?
ST. FRANCOIS COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - In most counties, a public administrator steps in to act as a guardian for someone who can't care for themselves and doesn't have family or friends willing to take that responsibility.
Trusted legal sources say conflicts between the PA and the family of a ward are not unusual.
That scenario is playing out right now in a St. Francois County man's case.
His daughter feels he's trapped in the system and he says he simply wants to go home.
"What do you think about the series this year? Do you think the Cardinals can pull it off?" I asked Redbirds fan Rich Wann by phone earlier in October.
"I think so," he responded in a recent phone call.
There's no doubt Wann is a Cardinals fan. Once drafted by his favorite team as a pitcher, Wann had to give up that dream to raise his two young children.
Now, he's following his favorite team's most recent trip to the World Series.
But back at the beginning of the season, life threw Wann a curve ball no one expected.
"Originally my dad, when he got sick, they had an emergency temporary hearing," said Theresa Wann Brown on September 27. "So basically for temporary guardianship so they could deal with my dad's assets and see to his care."
Diagnosed with dementia, a June 10 consent judgment granted temporary guardianship of Wann to St. Francois County Public Administrator Kenneth Rohrer. The order called for an audit and immediate medical attention.
"We don't really have any answers," Brown said of her dad's immediate future. "We don't have any certainties."
That guardianship took Wann out of his home in Desloge, and placed him at the Arbors, a memory care assisted living facility, in Farmington.
According to a spokeswoman for the facility, residents pay between $2800 and $4300 a month. Theresa claims her dad finds little to do there.
"He sits outside all day," she said.
I spoke to Rich Wann by phone in mid-October.
"It doesn't seem right for some reason," Wann said of his living situation.
"Doesn't seem right that you're there instead of your house?" I asked.
"Yeah," he responded. "Maybe two months ago, or three or four months ago I should have been here. But I don't think so now."
Looking through the paperwork in Wann's case, the public administrator filed and received 30 day extensions on his guardianship of Wann.
For her part, Brown worried her dad's medical and other needs were not being met.
"We're not interlopers," she said. "We're family."
Brown filed a motion to be named her dad's guardian and filed a contempt charge against Rohrer. The public administrator hired private attorney Ed Pultz to represent him.
Good news came in late September. A medical report dated September 27 found Rich Wann showing "marked improvement in cognition and orientation. Good eye contact. appropriate behavior."
The public administrator moved him from the Arbors to the Maplebrook Apartments in the same complex.
In a more recent call, here's what Wann said about the change.
"They've still got control over me. I can't go anywhere. It's just about the same as the other place," he said.
There's another attorney in this case, Brice Sechrest, who represents Wann's best interests.
He says he has talked to Wann about restrictions he faces while living in Farmington, but couldn't talk to me about them specifically.
Sechrest also says any restrictions Wann faces are placed on him by his guardian in his best interests.
That Arbors spokeswoman says they don't restrict their residents, but do follow restrictions placed on a ward of the state.
"He's put a lot of faith in me," Theresa Brown said of her dad Rich Wann through her tears.
Brown says she's been visiting her dad nearly every day since he became a ward of the state.
She's also collected dozens of documents, including the Consent Judgment that put Wann under the guardianship of the St. Francois County Public Administrator back in June.
She read a part of that judgment that pertained to her dad's well being at that time.
"Or that irreparable damage will occur to respondent's property because of the respondent's failure or inability to provide for his essential human needs or to protect his property," she shared.
I reached out to Kenneth Rohrer asking that, as an elected official, he make himself available to talk to me either about Wann's case, or about how he runs his office and cares for his wards.
I heard back from private attorney Ed Pultz.
He sent me this letter, explaining "Mr. Rohrer is obligated to take charge of estates when a person in St. Francois County is disabled or incapacitated and no one competent to.....act as such guardian.....can be found who would qualify"
He went on to write, "Mr. Rohrer is also very concerned about exposing Mr. Wann's name and....financial situation to the public....as we believe he is still open to possible exploitation by others."
"There's nothing to hide," Theresa Brown said of her family's contact with the public administrator's office. "I gave them everything—the titles, the will."
Brown admits she's been an often aggressive advocate on her dad's behalf. She believes that's led to new restrictions. She says her dad lost his cell phone and his ability to leave his apartment on Sundays.
The public administrator's attorney would not respond to those claims.
"So, whenever somebody walks in and they think they're doing the best for somebody and they basically act like you're an interloper, what right do they have to do that to a family member?"
All parties will be back in court December 11, to decide if Richard Wann still needs a guardian, and if there's a quote "competent person" who will qualify to take charge of his estate.
Wann's daughter hopes making her dad's story public will speed up that process.
One other point, while some public administrators do get paid based on the number of wards in their care, St. Francois County Presiding Commissioner Dr. David Cramp says Kenneth Rohrer makes $54,000 a year regardless of that number.
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