FOX 4 investigation yields bill seeking to protect elderly

Guardians and attorneys who represent some of Texas' most vulnerable people may be required to start disclosing exactly what they are charging for their services.

A bill before the legislature involves stepping up financial accountability.

“I feel like I am not in America,” Michael Kidd said back in 2009, after the state determined that he and his wife could no longer care for themselves. “I can't believe that I have been high jacked off the street, virtually…imprisoned.”

The state placed Kidd and his wife in a nursing home against their will and took over all of their finances.

It was only after FOX 4 stepped in and aired their story that a judge allowed them to return home, but by then, their finances had been turned upside down.

In Austin on Monday, there were lots of similar stories, and now a bill has been proposed that would require more financial accountability for guardians.

“We have seen attorneys' fees in cases in Tarrant County, Dallas County, Travis County and Bexar Counties in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to represent an elderly person who is trapped,” said Deb Valdez, a guardianship reform advocate.

Virginia Pritchett also testified about her good friend, Denise Tighe, who was also placed in a nursing home against her will 20 miles away from her home.

Pritchett said Tighe had a sizable savings account. She later died with no friends or family with her.

“This guardianship law may have been passed to help people, but instead, it enables the greed to take full financial advantage of the elderly,” said Pritchett. “My friend was never able to spend a day in her home again, simply because she had lots of money.”

State Sen. Judith Zaffarini's bill, Senate Bill 1369, would require attorney and guardians to file a report with the name of each person appointed by the court, the hours they worked and the compensation paid, and those reports would have to be available online and physically at the court.     

The senator says the current system requires reporting, but only 40 percent comply.

A Travis County judge testified Monday that he has grave concerns about the bill.

“This, I'm concerned about because it is putting a great burden upon the judge when I don't have enough staff in my office to do it,” said Judge Guy Herman of Travis County Probate Court.

Monday was the first reading of the bill, so it is still early in the legislative process.

Sadly, Michael and Jean Kidd both passed away after FOX 4's stories aired, but they were back in their home, and that is where they wanted to be.