WA guardian case highlights need for government transparency

We received this letter below from a Washington state man who says his mother’s court-appointed guardian failed to ensure her receipt of adequate physical care and also was responsible for excessive expenditures which in no way benefited her.  Dean Libey was prominently featured in a 2007 article published by The Seattle Times.  The introductory Your Courts, Their Secrets piece as well as another 2007 follow-up are also posted in the EoD News Archive.

Per Mr. Libey’s letter, all actions regarding his mother were taken with court approval, specifically that of Spokane County Commissioner Steven Grovdahl.  Commissioner Grovdahl is welcome to provide comments regarding Mr. Libey’s allegations.  EstateofDenial.com will gladly post any response.

The court files on Mr. Libey’s mother were evidently sealed by Commissioner Grovdahl at the request of the court-appointed guardian, Spokane attorney Tom Robinson.  According to The Times, court commissioners “have many of the same powers as judges but are not elected.”  The articles discuss a past long-standing practice of Washington state judges to seal files of many court cases disregarding statutory parameters and the public’s right to know.  These are interesting stories and make us wonder about the reality of having court files sealed in our home state of Texas and throughout the rest of the country – it’s a great tool for those seeking to hide wrongdoing!

EstateofDenial.com strongly believes in governmental transparency and the judiciary is no exception!  Involuntary Redistribution of Assets (IRA) cases in which probate venues/instruments (wills, trusts, guardianships) are used to loot assets of the dead or disabled/incapacitated often benefit from a lack of accountability and secrecy.

Questionable acts hidden with assistance from court personnel constitute a serious breach of public trust and can be a great boon to IRA perpetrators.  It can cause the public to be unaware of predators or other dangers present in a community.  Sealing records can conceal evidence of anything from professional or other misconduct to criminal acts.  Whether motivated to cover one’s own actions or as a favor for influential constituents, this abuse of power is sickening.

Any public official (elected or otherwise, paid or not) who operates in a taxpayer-funded venue and is hesitant to have his/her actions scrutinized needs to find a less public line of work – or area of service – and certainly not accept taxpayer-funded compensation.


Thank you for the work you are doing. The attachment is a letter to Spokane County Commissioner Steven Grovdahl. He and any number of people have received it as per its date. The letter reveals a chronology of occurrences that happened in my mother’s case. My mother was afflicted with dementia.

I’d like to share the letter with you.

Thank you

Dean Libey


Spokane County Courthouse
Commissioner Steven Grovdahl
1116 Broadway Ave.
Spokane WA. 99260

Re. Case # 00-4-00390-2

Commissioner Grovdahl,

The above case number is in reference to my mother Evy S. Hohner, now deceased. I have a question that I’d like you to answer, but first a little background to refresh your memory and for those individuals who are also receiving this correspondence. My mother became that number when the court deemed her incapacitated in 1999. Prior to that my son and I had moved over from Everett and took care of her for a year until the court gave control of her life to a lawyer/guardian. No one questioned the care she received nor were there any financial improprieties during the time I was her caregiver.

My brother Howard, a doctor, came up from Texas and my brother Randy came over from Tacoma to join me in petitioning the court for guardianship of our mother. Yet you, Commissioner Grovdahl gave control of her life and finances to a complete stranger, Thomas Robinson, citing familial conflict. Perhaps by that you are referring to the fact that a fourth son did not want the family to act as guardian.

I would think that three out of four a strong showing, along with the fact that my son and I moved across the state to care for her.

When I complained of the inadequate care my mother was receiving under the guardianship of Mr. Robinson the court extended Carol Hunter’s roll as Guardian ad Litem to investigate my claim. Originally Ms. Hunter had been appointed by the court to look into 20 cases of Mr. Robinson’s that were noncompliant in that court ordered documents (annual accountings, death certificates etc.) were not forthcoming. I included Judge Kathleen O’Connor as a recipient of that complaint and I believe this led to the appointment.   The subsequent report substantiated my claim of inadequate care.

At the end of her report Ms. Hunter states “As to the violations of Standards of Practice, to my knowledge the Certified Professional Board has not made a finding on any violations. The provisions cited above may be relevant to an investigation by the Board. The Court may, in its discretion make a complaint to the Standard of Practice Committee of the Certified Professional Board.”

Correct me if I’m wrong Commissioner Grovdahl, but there was no action taken by the Board or the court with regard to the GAL report.

When Mr. Robinson stated in an affidavit that he left $400.00 in a paper bag for caregivers to use, I refuted that claim by offering the names and phone numbers of the caregivers who would deny that such a thing occurred. The court did not act upon this information.

In Mr. Robinson’s first late accounting he charged my incapacitated mother $16,189.87 in attorney fees. In that same accounting he alleged that she spent $18,058.18 under the heading of “Personal Allowance” and Commissioner Grovdahl you approved.

In the final accounting Mr. Robinson alleged that my incapacitated mother spent $8,610 also under the heading of “Personal Allowance” which coincidently is exactly what she received from Social Security. And once again Commissioner Grovdahl you approved.

Pardon me for pointing out the obvious but would Mr. Robinson make such allegations of spending by my mother and risk being cited for allowing it if he thought for one minute that what he submitted to the court was not going to receive blanket approval?

I lived four blocks away and saw my mother almost every day. Believe me when I tell you that dementia had taken from my mother the wherewithal to remember what she had just eaten much less the ability to spend $26,668.18 in less than two years on frivolities.

The $200,000 my mother originally had in mutual funds did not make it there by spending on nonessentials. Such spending was contrary to her core values. Dementia takes away the present leaving the past, and then it takes that away as well. Without the present there is no desire to want anything except for that which the body tells you it needs i.e. food etc.

If you recall the amount set by the court for the purchase of nonessentials was $1500.00 per year.

The court did not cite Mr. Robinson for allowing the alleged spending. Although my mother had lost her concept of money, there were those who were keenly aware of her bank account.

I have filed complaints with the Washington State Guardianship Board and the Bar, but because the accountings were court approved, both entities are blocked from pursuing any sort of investigation.

This is a prime example of the “good old boys” displaying their “go along, get along” philosophy.

And let me not forget the last little favor you did for Mr. Robinson when he petitioned the court for a substitute guardian and asked that my mother’s file be sealed citing “sensitive issues”. You [the court] found that to be a compelling reason, “go along, get along” aside nobody else apparently agrees for as you know the Seattle Times successfully petitioned that the file be reopened along with many others around the state.

I am quoted as saying “The sealing of my mother’s file is a symptom of a disease that plagues the court” (Seattle Times, Your Courts, Their Secrets). Commissioner Grovdahl you have company with the many that skirt the few laws set in place to protect the incapacitated.

Given the sequence of events the disease is systemic in nature. Selective compassion does not exist.

Is it a crime that my mother was charged $16,189.87 in attorney fees in the first year of Mr. Robinson’s guardianship? These charges apparently did not need court approval until after the fact and it was given by silence. Mr. Robinson charged my mother’s estate for the time it took him to answer my complaints. The allegation of inadequate care was substantiated by Carol Hunter’s Guardian ad Litem report if you remember. My mother paid twice, once with the hell of untrained caregivers and again with money taken by Mr. Robinson with court approval.

What can be done to prevent the misuse of the power held?

In the real world Commissioner Grovdahl this is known as corruption when the intent of the law is thwarted.

Among other things it is the intent of the law to protect the helpless is it not?

Now my question to you is this; I know what Mr. Robinson received from the guardianship of my mother, but what did you get out of it?


Dean Libey

Seattle Times
Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct
Washington State Bar Association
Washington State Guardianship Board
Senator Ken Jacobson