Newington town attorney tangled in probate tussle (CT)

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Newington‘s town attorney is due in court Tuesday to answer a breach of peace charge that stems from a physical altercation police say he had with a relative of a 96-year-old woman for whom he serves as conservator in a long-running and acrimonious probate case.

Peter Boorman, 58, of Newington and Joseph Geremia, 39, of Rocky Hill, the woman’s grandson, were each charged with second-degree breach of peace, a misdemeanor, following the fight on May 22 at a private residence in Wallingford, according to Wallingford Police Lt. Mark Mikulsky.

Boorman and Joseph Geremia’s worlds first collided in the Newington Probate District court where a bitter family dispute over 96-year-old Margaret Geremia’s care and modest assets has spilled into the public light. Boorman is one of three attorneys appointed by Probate Judge Robert A. Randich to protect Margaret Geremia’s personal and financial interests.

Randich named Boorman, a fellow member of the Newington Democratic Town Committee, as the woman’s conservator in September. Boorman is vice chairman of the committee that lists Randich as a member.

Probate Court Administrator Paul Knierim in a written statement released Friday said Randich will consider whether Boorman should remain as Margaret Geremia’s conservator.

“These allegations are serious, and the court will be conducting a hearing on June 11 to determine what occurred,” Knierim said.

Boorman and Joseph Geremia clashed at the home of Douglas and Linda Geremia, Joseph Geremia’s parents, at 23 King St., in Wallingford about an hour after a contentious three-and-a-half-hour probate hearing. Douglas Geremia and his brother William Geremia, Margaret’s sons, accuse each other in probate court filings of mishandling their mother’s affairs and money.

During the hearing, Randich had instructed that nearly $9,000 in cash that Margaret Geremia had set aside for her own funeral and that was kept at Douglas Geremia’s King Street home be turned over to Boorman. The hearing had focused largely on Boorman’s request for authority to seek a criminal investigation into the possible misuse of Margaret Geremia’a assets. Boorman claimed the investigation was needed because he had been unable to obtain information from Douglas Geremia about $15,000 in expenditures from Margaret Geremia’s assets made while she had been living with her son.

Boorman arrived at Douglas Geremia’s house about 6 p.m. to retrieve the funeral savings. While there he encountered Joseph Geremia, Douglas’s son, and the trouble soon began.

They have a slightly different version of what happened. Joseph Geremia says Boorman pushed him as he tried to stop Boorman from entering his grandmother’s room where the money was kept.

“He said, ‘I’m coming through’ and pushed me into the furnace door,” Geremia said.

Boorman, would go into detail about the confrontation because of the pending criminal case against him.

“All I can tell you is that I was assaulted by Joseph Geremia,” he said.

The tussle ended before Wallingford police arrived. Joseph Geremia said his wife had called 911.

After taking statements, police charged both men with breach of peace. Although Douglas Geremia had handed the money over to Boorman, the officers told Boorman to return it to the house because he had nothing in writing from the probate court authorizing him to take it.

Randich declined comment through his chief clerk because the case is pending in his court.

Among the legal motions that were before Randich on May 22 was Douglas Geremia’s request, dated March 29, that Boorman be removed as conservator. It followed Boorman’s March 22 written request for the criminal investigation, a move supported by William Geremia. The May 22 hearing dealt primarily with Boorman’s request.

The physical altercation came 14 months into the bickering among Margaret Geremia’s family over her care and modest assets. There have been accusations of theft of money and possessions, of secretly plotting to sell her property, of blocking access to her and of repeated acts of bad faith.

Also on the agenda of the May 22 hearing was a motion filed by a lawyer for William Geremia that backed Boorman’s request for a criminal probe into the action of his brother and sister-in-law, accusing them of misappropriating about $29,000.

Randich also had before him William Geremia’s motion to enforce a subpoena that sought information about Margaret Geremia’s finances from his brother.

Randich did not rule on any of the motions that were before him May 22. He did, however, apparently instruct Douglas and Linda Geremia orally to turn the $8,928 funeral money over to Boorman.

According to court records, William Geremia of Rocky Hill took care of mother’s finances for about a decade while she lived on her own at her house in North Haven. In 2010, William needed an operation and Douglas, who with William shared power-of-attorney for their mother, assumed responsibility for her. It was during this time that Margaret Geremia suffered a series of mini-strokes and in the fall of 2010 she moved in with her son Douglas in Wallingford.

In late February 2011, Douglas Geremia suffered a heart attack. His mother then moved in with Douglas’ son Joseph Geremia in Rocky Hill, according to court documents. On March 15, 2011, Joseph took his grandmother to a New Haven law office where he tried to get his uncle William removed as power attorney. The lawyer declined to make the change after he talked to Margaret and found her “profoundly confused,” not knowing why what she as doing or why she was there, court documents say.

That same day, Joseph took his grandmother to various banks and emptied $109,000 from her joint accounts with William, court documents say.

“While the parties reported to the court that the monies had all been accounted for and eventually deposited into accounts for the benefit of Margaret, it was never explained why any of this maneuvering was necessary, particularly without prior notice to William,” Randich wrote in a Sept. 13 finding.

Joseph Geremia has accused his uncle of stealing from his mother, but Randich stated in the Sept.13 finding that he has never produced any evidence.

When William learned of Joseph’s actions, he requested on April 1, 2011 that the probate court in Newington appoint a conservator for his mother. The action was filed in Newington Probate Court because Margaret was living at the time with Joseph in Rocky Hill, part of the Newington probate district.

After a summer of bitter back and forth, the family, with the exception of Joseph Geremia, agreed to a non-family conservator. The first conservator quit after just a few weeks on the job. Randich appointed Boorman on Sept. 29.

The feud is quickly depleting Margaret Geremia’s modest assets. A total of five lawyers represent various parties in the case, three of them appointed by Randich to protect her: a personal lawyer, a guardian ad litem who protects her as a person, and a conservator to watch over her assets. The three appointed by Randich are paid from her assets.

When the case started in 2011, Margaret Geremia had $109,000 and a house at 43 Randall Drive in North Haven valued at $216,930, as well as numerous personal items inside it. The cash had already dwindled to just under $60,000 as of last September.

Newington Mayor Stephen Woods, also a member of the Democratic Town Committee who appointed Boorman town attorney last fall, said he has no immediate plans to investigate the matter or take any other action. If the charges are not dropped Tuesday, he said he would reconsider.

Attribution:

Newington Town Attorney Tangled In Probate Tussle
Christopher Hoffman
June 4, 2012
The Hartford Courant
http://www.courant.com/community/newington/hc-newington-probate-20120604,0,6427322.story

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