A Portland doctor says he was misled into signing a letter that helped derail a former state senator’s dream of donating 184 acres of parkland to Lincoln County in memory of his wife.
Dr. Shawn Blanchard, the primary care physician for former state Sen. Walt Brown, said he signed the letter after Brown’s eldest son provided false details about his father’s mental and financial state.
The son, Jeffrey Brown, then used that letter as evidence in his successful petition to have himself appointed as conservator of his father’s estate – a position he then used to sue Lincoln County to rescind the parkland donation.
But Blanchard says that the conservatorship is based upon a falsehood and has undermined the legacy that Walt Brown wanted to leave in his wife’s honor.
“Senator Brown appeared prouder of this park than any of his lifetime accomplishments, which are numerous,” Blanchard said, “and [the donation] is completely consistent with his historical political leanings; [which are] unfortunately opposite of those of his eldest son in particular.”
Blanchard, a family medicine specialist at Oregon Health Sciences University, said Jeffrey Brown approached him in 2006 when Walt Brown was in delirium following a fall from a tow truck.
“Jeffrey Brown approached me saying that Mr. Brown owed over $500,000 in back taxes and was about to be arrested and lose his home,” Blanchard wrote in a declaration under oath filed with Clackamas County Circuit Court, adding: “Jeffrey Brown told me that Mr. Brown suffered from bipolar disorder and was mentally incompetent.”
Blanchard said Jeffrey Brown drafted a letter saying his father was incapable of handling his own affairs, saying he needed such a letter to prevent the IRS from seizing his father’s home.
“I chose to sign the letter,” Blanchard said, “assuming that Jeffrey Brown had told me the truth and that Mr. Brown needed the help of his son.”
“After Mr. Brown cleared the delirium,” he added, “I was shocked to find out that Mr. Brown did not owe $500,000 to the IRS and was not at risk of his house being taken by the IRS.
“I was even more shocked to learn that Jeffrey Brown used this letter signed by me in the case to obtain a conservatorship over his father that continues today.”
Blanchard formally rescinded the letter in a declaration sworn under penalty of perjury and filed with Clackamas County Circuit Court in December 2010.
“Mr. Walter F. Brown is, in my professional opinion, very capable to manage his own affairs,” he wrote. “I am hopeful that the care and scrutiny of the court will rectify this historic mistake for the good of all.”
Jeffrey Brown did not respond to an email seeking comment for this article.
The 184 acres at the center of the Lincoln County case sit astride the Siletz River, about five miles east of Depoe Bay.
Walt Brown and his first wife, Barbara, spent many years reforesting the land, which had been clear-cut during World War I.
Brown, former chair of the state senate’s Agriculture and Forestry Committee, said he intended to have the land dedicated as a public park in memory of Barbara, to whom he had been married for 48 years when she died from cancer in 1999.
On Aug. 8, 2007, Brown met with the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners to sign an agreement to donate all the land for use as the “Barbara S. and Walter F. Brown Memorial Park.”
What commissioners did not know at the time was that, just 13 days earlier, Jeffrey Brown had filed a petition with Clackamas County Circuit Court for conservatorship of his father’s estate.
On Dec. 31, 2007, after considering evidence from Jeffrey Brown and court-ordered visitor Catherine Garman, the court appointed Jeffrey Brown as conservator.
In December 2008, Jeffrey Brown sued the County to retrieve the 184 acres, saying County staff misled his father about the tax advantages of the donation and “exerted undue influence over a vulnerable adult.”
While that lawsuit made its way through the court system in Lincoln County, another legal battle was going on in Clackamas County, where Walt Brown was seeking to have the conservatorship withdrawn.
Those efforts have so far been unsuccessful, with the Oregon Court of Appeals upholding the Clackamas County decision – although the Clackamas County court did order that Jeffrey Brown be replaced as conservator by Portland-based financial consulting firm MacDonald & Associates, which has continued the action against Lincoln County.
In June, the County’s Board of Commissioners authorized Wayne Belmont to enter into settlement that would see the County get 74 acres of the land at a cost of $42,500, with the remaining 110 acres returning to the conservatorship.
The case is scheduled for a settlement hearing in front of Judge Sheryl Bachart in Lincoln County Circuit Court on Monday, Sept. 12.
However, Walt Brown’s current wife, Beverly Brown, has filed a motion to intervene in the case, drawing attention to Blanchard’s declaration, which was originally filed as part of the unsuccessful effort to have the conservatorship withdrawn.
The motion also states that Walt escaped the jurisdiction of his conservator by relocating to Louisiana earlier this year, with Beverly Brown pointing out that the Bayou State is not covered by the Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act.
Beverly Brown also raises technical issues regarding whether the courts properly followed state law in adopting MacDonald & Associates as conservator in the first place.
“Walter and Barbara planned this park for over 20 years,” she wrote. “Walter has never wanted nor needed it to be overturned. He was of sound mind when he made the donation and it should be honored.”
Responding to the motion, Victoria Blachly, attorney for MacDonald & Associates, says her client was appointed as conservator in accordance with state law, adding that the Browns’ decision to move to Louisiana does not strip the Oregon courts of their jurisdiction.
Blachly says Beverly Brown is trying to undermine the case by questioning the validity of a conservatorship that has been upheld by the Clackamas County court as well as the court of appeals.
“Everyone is well aware Mr. and Mrs. Brown do not approve of a conservator for Walter Brown,” she wrote, “but that is not a pertinent complaint on a motion to intervene on an already settled matter.”
Another twist in Lincoln County park lawsuit
September 6, 2011
The News Guard