What Gets Done in The Dark

root - Posted on 01 January 2000

A very low-income African Descendent Family fight the County Of Alameda to keep their assets, their grandmama, and their family housed …..The Sloan Family story continues….

by Alexandra Cuff/PNN Community Journalist

"What gets done in the dark gets brought to the light," Javelyn Wood’s plaintive voice sailed through the phone. Despite the tropical air seeping through my bedroom window, I got chills listening to Javelyn, one of Beatrice Sloan’s 45 grandchildren, who was relating to me the horror story of the abuse of her grandmother, eviction notices, and the theft of the family assets.

Music and children’s laughter poured through the receiver as Javelyn went on to explain that her situation was "just making me more determined to help my gramma get back what she lost and what they took." Javelyn’s daughter Jayla sang a Christina Aquilera song in the background as Javelyn continued: "Where’s the money? It’s all in the paperwork, they know they are doing wrong. They don’t care, they didn’t think anyone would pick up on what they were doing. They thought they could keep taking from people." When Beatrice was put into Conservatorship, her family was convinced that her county-appointed conservator, Alfred Fischer, now owned the family estates.

Well the Sloans certainly picked up on what they, Alameda County, were doing. Scott Sloan patiently explained to me, "I filled out a police report last week because I was paying rent to Alfred Fischer when it was supposed to be to ‘Beatrice Sloan in care of Alfred Fischer’." The Oakland police are investigating criminal charges against Fischer and 11 other employees of Alameda County for fraud and elder abuse.

"Dark" describes the events that Alameda County has been afflicting on the Sloan family. "In the dark" would describe the way in
which these injustices have been carried out. Against the odds of poverty and of being a single parent, Beatrice Sloan worked
full-time as a dishwasher for thirty years during which she bought and maintained four houses, affording a home for herself and
her large extended family. The result of providing for her family through toilsome restaurant labor, she became ill and was
abducted along with her property, by the County Guardianship Program in the county of Alameda.

When she was placed into The Excell Nursing Home, a board and care facility in East Oakland, two of her properties were
consecutively sold - without the consent of the families living in the houses and without for sale signs indicating the pending sale - to apparently cover the exorbitant cost of the nursing
home. In May, her son Scott Sloan who lives with Javelyn and Charles Wood and their 4 children, received a 30-day eviction
notice without reason. Thanks to support and advocacy by POOR Magazine, DAMO and other agencies, the Sloans got a lawyer and the first eviction was dismissed on August 5th. Although the dismissal was cause for celebration, the Sloans were not in the clear: "We knew they’d come back with something else. We don’t sleep too easy," Javelyn admitted to me on the phone. On September 27th, they received the same eviction notice again but with the date from May whited out.

I sat in my bed with interview notes, past POOR Magazine articles about the Sloan case, and information about Conservatorship from the NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) website. I was confused about all the aspects of exploitation going on. This story is not only about unjust eviction and gentrification but about elder abuse and fraud. Beatrice is now in the Willowstreet rest home after the Sloans raised hell to get her out of the Excell. When they visited her one day at Excell, they pulled the
covers off to discover a rotten smell indicating the neglect Beatrice has been a victim of. When Javelyn made an attempt to have her grandmother’s situation looked into and to complain about conservatee abuse, she was threatened by Alameda County that she was to be investigated for welfare fraud. When she contacted her case worker, the worker didn’t know anything about it. The threat was made without just cause in an attempt to
intimidate Javelyn from pursuing justice for her grandmother.

Beatrice Sloan was originally put on an LPS (Lanterman Petris Short) Conservatorship which can happen if the court believes
that you are "gravely disabled" which means having a mental disorder that keeps you from being able to provide food, clothing
and shelter for yourself. (At this time, Beatrice was not only providing shelter for herself but owned four homes which her extended family lived in and cared for.) The LPS Conservatorship can last for a maximum of one year at a time and can be renewed in court at the end of the year. A Conservatorship allows for the management of an incapacitated person’s affairs when he or she does not have an alternative mechanism in place to do so. The person always has the right to have an attorney present. If the individual does not want to be conserved, there will be a court hearing before a judge and/or jury, to determine their fate. These rights were never communicated to Beatrice’s family. Despite Beatrice’s 9 children, 45 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great-grandchild, the documents held by Alameda County reflect there is only one family member who passed away in 2001.

When the family tried to learn of where the income from the sold houses had gone, the most current of the 11 conservators
which have been assigned to Sloan’s case over the past 8 years, Alfred Fischer, stated, "It’s not in my department." While it
might not be "in his department" to cough up information about where the family’s money is, it’s apparently in his department to
collect rent from the member’s living in the remaining properties and the money from the houses which have been sold. All this time the Sloans and the Woods have been paying rent to Alfred Fischer, an ex-property manager, whose name is on the lease as the landlord. The Sloans made their last payment to Fischer in April.

Right now, the Sloan family is trying to bring Beatrice home. Javelyn’s cousin Richshalda has been through a lot in trying to
gain Conservatorship over Mrs. Sloan. On October 3, 2002, she went to court and was reprimanded by the judge for having the
wrong paperwork. The public defender rationalized telling the judge that she was given outdated paperwork and to ease up
because she is representing herself without an attorney.

In September the family filled out a police report with the Oakland Police in hope to uncover some of the duplicitous mysteries surrounding the case of Beatrice Sloan and her assets. The police officer who came to the house to listen to the Sloans’ account was the first officer they spoke with who was knowledgeable about Conservatorships. He confirmed what they already knew – Alameda County is not supposed to be selling the properties without the consent of a living conservatee and Alfred Fischer is not supposed to be collecting the rent in his name.

I spoke with Javelyn today – they haven’t gotten much information back about the investigation but investigators have contacted Alfred Fischer and the police report described Fischer as being "hostile." We are hoping that despite the fact that Fischer and the Oakland Police Department both fall under the umbrella of Alameda County employees, the investigation with be thorough and just. Scott Sloan told me that if nothing comes of the Oakland investigation, they will take the case to the FBI.

As time goes on, the Sloan family becomes more determined to illuminate the gross injustices they have been through. "We can only help people who are going through the same thing. It’s up to us." Javelyn told me, the background laughter and children’s voices still occasionally singing into the phone. "My grandma worked too hard. She’s being robbed. If my grandma was able, this wouldn’t be going on. They took advantage."


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