“Civil Death” of Annette Rodriguez: Part 1
Annette Fled US to Escape Abuse by San Diego County Public Guardian
Annette Rodriguez (age 24) has high functioning Autism. A cheerful and opinionated young woman, Annette graduated from high school, works for PostMates, and lives semi-independently. Annette needs some assistance with decision-making and with her daily routine.
Annette’s mother, Sylvia Campa, is an energetic advocate for Annette’s rights. Sylvia works tirelessly to obtain legally mandated services from San Diego Regional Center (SDRC).
Following advice from SDRC, Sylvia petitioned the court for conservatorship over Annette as Annette approached her eighteenth birthday. Many families report Regional Centers insist parents seek conservatorship, thus stripping basic civil rights from Regional Center clients.
In 2019, Sylvia pressured SDRC to provide services that Annette needed. SDRC retaliated with an adverse report to Adult Protective Services, which led the court to suspend Sylvia from her role as Annette’s conservator.
On November 25, 2020, Judge Jeffery Bostwick appointed San Diego County Public Guardian as temporary conservator over Annette. In the following months, the Public Guardian refused to communicate with Sylvia. Documents indicate the Public Guardian neglected Annette, violated court orders, violated Probate Code, and threatened to isolate Annette.
On February 21, 2020, Annette fled the United States to her father’s home in Mexico. The Public Guardian responded by threatening Sylvia with prosecution for kidnapping.
Conservatorship as Civil Death
Often called civil death, conservatorship is a legal instrument that gives a conservator nearly absolute power over all aspects of the conservatee’s life.
Congressman Claude Pepper made the following statement about conservatorship.
By appointing a [conservator], the court entrusts to someone else the power to choose where they will live, what medical treatment they will get and, in rare cases, when they will die.
It is … the most punitive civil penalty that can be levied against an American citizen…
Conservatorship prevents a person from hiring an attorney or seeking a civil remedy in court. Many conservatees find themselves in the dilemma of having a court appointed attorney who opposes the conservatee’s wishes and basic civil rights. Many conservatees are prevented from addressing the court to express their wishes or to report violations of their rights.
Allegation: Public Guardian Neglected Annette
Penal Code 368.5 provides the following definition of abuse.
Physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering; or the deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering. [Emphasis added)
On December 31, 2019, Sylvia sent the following email to Johanna Stafford at SDRC.
I am frustrated and frankly scared for my daughter’s safety. Annette relayed to the public guardian that she walked to 7-11 by herself recently.
On Feb 5, 2020, Sylvia sent a second, similar email to Johanna Stafford.
Just right now, Annette called me from her cell phone saying she was walking by herself along the street to the 7/11 to get food. That the SLS did not take her grocery shopping today… My daughter is completely at risk, in the dark and on the street.
Allegation: Public Guardian Violated Court Orders
Violating a court order is a misdemeanor. The Public Guardian violated the court’s order to meet with Sylvia and to communicate with Sylvia.
Penal Code 166(a) states the following.
(a) Except as provided in subdivisions (b), (c), and (d), a person guilty of any of the following contempts of court is guilty of a misdemeanor:
(1) Disorderly, contemptuous, or insolent behavior committed during the sitting of a court of justice, in the immediate view and presence of the court, and directly tending to interrupt its proceedings or to impair the respect due to its authority.
(4) Willful disobedience of the terms as written of any process or court order or out-of-state court order, lawfully issued by a court, including orders pending trial.
On January 6, 2020, Judge Bostwick ordered the Public Guardian to have regular meetings with Sylvia and to communicate openly with Sylvia. Judge Bostwick made the follow statement to Sylvia.
THE COURT: I’m anxious that you and the public guardian meet together in addition to their meeting with the conservatee so that this communication flow is good. I would like to see that happen.
Judge Bostwick repeatedly admonished Deputy Public Guardian Lillian Flagg to communicate with Sylvia for Annette’s benefit.
THE COURT: I’m suggesting that the public guardian be aware of Ms. Campa’s concerns and listen to those concerns. …
But at least having a regular meeting with her makes sense to the Court.
THE COURT: It makes sense for me for the [Public Guardian] to also be talking to Ms. Campa to make sure that you don’t end up in court and all of a sudden there’s a laundry list of concerns that you’re first hearing about. Do you understand what I’m saying?
THE COURT: Good communication is vital in this case. Vital. Everybody. Not in lieu of. Comprehensively everybody, again.
Judge Bostwick directly instructed Flagg on meeting and communicating with Sylvia.
THE COURT: Have you sat down with Ms. Campa and gone over these things item by item or is this just the first time you’re hearing about her concerns?
MS. FLAGG: We have not sat down and gone through them.
THE COURT: Would it be easier to do that rather than have the Court somehow be the go-between of communication here?
MS. FLAGG: Sure.
THE COURT: In fact, wouldn’t it make sense for the public guardian to have a regular meeting with Ms. Campa, I mean, a scheduled regular at least monthly meeting with her?
THE COURT: So we can head off a lot of concerns and complaints by getting the communication working, and the communication works when there’s regular scheduled meetings.
Sylvia reported that no one with the Public Guardian’s office met with her. Prior to Annette fleeing the country, communication from the Public Guardian consisted of:
4 emails barking orders.
Allegation: Public Guardian Stated Intent to Violate Probate Code
Giving family less than 48 hours’ notice, Flagg stated her intent to remove Annette from her home and place Annette in a group home.
Probate Code requires a temporary conservator obtain a court order prior to moving a temporary conservatee. Probate Code 2253(a) states in part:
If a temporary conservator of the person proposes to fix the residence of the conservatee at a place other than that where the conservatee resided prior to the commencement of the proceedings, that power shall be requested of the court in writing…
Any time a conservator plans to move the residence of a conservatee, the conservator must file Form GC-079, the Pre-Move Notice of Change of Personal Residence. The form must be filed with the court and served on the conservatee and family at least 15 days prior to the move.
The Public Guardian did not file the Pre-Move Notice.
At 3:45 PM on Thursday, February 19, 2020, Flagg emailed her intent to move Annette.
Annette needs to stay home and not go to Mexico tomorrow or this weekend.
Annette will be moving Friday 02/21/20.
Annette routinely spends weekends in Mexico with her father. Distraught by Flagg’s email, Annette fled to her father’s home. Annette left a letter on her bed explaining where she went and why.
I like things the way they are. … So just leave me alone.
I have a vacation with my dad.
On February 20, 2020, Flagg sent the following disjoint email to Sylvia.
Due to us not receiving a return call and not knowing where Annette is. We have to take every precaution and notify the proper authorities.
[W]hen is Annette coming back to the US so that SDRC and us [sic] can be prepared to care for her?
Later the same day, Deputy Public Guardian Supervisor Alex Martin threatened Sylvia with prosecution for kidnapping.
Around 9 PM, Officer Pace of San Diego Police Department called Sylvia.
Johanna from Regional had called in a missing person report. He had a document that showed Annette was supposed to be in the custody of the Public Guardian. He needed to investigate where she was and “lets settle this before it blows up any further. They are saying you took her, and I need to talk to you.”
Allegation: Public Guardian Stated Intent to Perpetrate Isolation Abuse
Probate Code 2351(a) states the personal rights of a conservatee.
[Conservator’s] control shall not extend to personal rights retained by the conservatee, including, but not limited to, the right to receive visitors, telephone calls, and personal mail, unless specifically limited by court order.
Penal Code 368.5 includes isolation and mental suffering in the definition of criminal abuse.
[P]hysical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering; or the deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering. [Emphasis added)
The court did not give any orders limiting Annette’s personal right to visitation. Yet, Flagg’s February 19, 2020 email threatened to isolate Annette from family and friends.
Family and friend visits will be welcomed so long as they are not disruptive to Annette’s life.
March 5, 2020 Court Hearing
Sylvia petitioned the court to terminate the conservatorship. Annette fears for her safety if she returns to the United States. Sylvia questions whether conservatorship remains appropriate, given Annette’s growing self-confidence and increasing abilities to make her own decisions.
Unfortunately, Annette’s flight will cause her to lose services from SDRS. Annette was recently approved for a highly competitive self-determination program which brings $94,000 in funding. Annette will also loose over $48,000/year in In-Home Supportive Services, plus $11,000/year in Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Public Guardian Reports to Board of Supervisors
The Public Guardian’s Office is a San Diego County agency overseen by the Board of Supervisors. Annette and Sylvia are constituents of Board Chair Greg Cox.
Deputy Public Guardian Supervisor Alex Martin was contacted by phone and by email. Ms. Martin declined to comment.
Public Guardian Mark Sellers was contacted by email on February 21, 2020. As of posting, Mr. Sellers has not responded.
San Diego County Public Guardian: Mark Sellers
Deputy Public Guardian Supervisor: Alex Martin
District 1: Greg Cox (Chair)
District 2: Dianne Jacob
District 3: Kristin Gaspar
District 4: Nathan Fletcher
District 5: Jim Desmond (Vice Chair)
VIDEOS REGARDING THE CORRUPT GUARDIANSHIP OF ANNETTE RODRIGUEZ
Annette Rodriguez Says “That’s just wrong!” to the Public Guardian
Annette and Tabby, “I like things the way they are.”
San Diego County Board of Supervisors 2/25/2020
San Diego Regional Center: Opposes Family and Friends
“Civil Death” of Annette Rodriguez: Part 2