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Attorney General objecting to fees in Macomb Co. guardian case exposed by 7 Investigators

Posted at 4:05 PM, Sep 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-06 17:41:30-04

(WXY) — Michigan’s Attorney General is officially intervening in a controversial guardianship case first exposed by the 7 Investigators. On behalf of Attorney General Dana Nessel, State Public Administrator Michael Moody is officially objecting to the fees requested in the case of Bob Mitchell and Barbara Delbridge.

“We were monitoring the case, and watching it, but by intervening we can make arguments now in the case itself,” Moody told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo Friday after a court hearing in the case.

In May, 7 Action News first exposed how Mitchell and Delbridge were kept from their family members after Macomb County Probate Judge Kathryn George granted guardianship and conservatorship of the couple to Cathy Kirk’s Caring Hearts Michigan Inc. Mitchell’s daughter, Marcie Mitchell, had the family’s support to become Bob and Barb’s guardian, but Judge George would not allow it.

Cathy Kirk is married to prominent Macomb County lawyer Robert Kirk, and used his law firm to bill Mitchell and Delbridge $31,624.59 while they were under her guardianship.

Kirk also hired her own caregiver company, Executive Care, to provide 24/7 in-home care for the couple. That bill now for 192 days of care now totals $263,478.91.

The Attorney General and other legal experts interviewed by the 7 Investigators argue those charges violate Michigan law, which prevents self-dealing for guardians.

In the Attorney General’s notice of intervention filed with the court, Moody writes: “All of these financial transactions set forth in Caring Hearts’ Final Account are presumed to be affected by a conflict between personal and fiduciary interests, and therefore voidable.”

Michigan’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack and Nessel announced in May that the case would be under investigated. It was reassigned to Macomb County Chief Judge James Biernat Jr.

In June, Marcie Mitchell, and Barbara Delbridge’s sister, Anita Little, were awarded guardianship of their loved ones, and today they were awarded conservatorship.

“This is an important case that kind of rose to the forefront of our Elder Abuse Task Force. The Attorney general thought this case exemplified the concerns that she has about guardian and conservators around the state, and when we looked at this case and the fact that it started with passing over the family members for priority, and then we’ve gone on to this issue of self-dealing potential, this became a case that she said hey, this is important to the people of the state of Michigan,” Moody told Catallo outside the courtroom Friday.

The intervention and objection to fees does not prevent the Attorney General from pursuing a criminal case in the matter.

Family members are also objecting to the fees from Caring Hearts, Executive Care, and Kirk’s law firm. A hearing is set for January, 10, 2020.

Edward Nahhat the attorney for Caring Hearts Michigan released the following statement to 7 Action News about today's developments.

The Attorney General has misapplied the statutes and the court rules here, and is seemingly taking sides in a probate dispute. These families have competent counsel who are giving their clients their full day in court. Caring Hearts Michigan was appointed by that court, then served these individuals diligently, and took good care of them. The facts in court will ultimately prove that.