Local Woman Supports State Bill to Curb Abuses of Adults

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By Linda Cicoira — A bill that would create a state-maintained registry for adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation was introduced last month to the General Assembly by Sen. Lynwood Lewis. In his Eastern Shore Post column last week, Lewis said the intent behind the bill was to protect the elderly.

Legitimate complaints would be compiled with record retention, disclosure, and an appeal process. The program would cost about $500,000 in the first year, which is set for 2019, with estimates of $679,415 annually after that.

Northampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Beverly Leatherbury said the bill is almost identical to one for child abuse except with the elderly, different agencies would need the information. “I think collecting the statuses is a good thing.” She said another bill, HB2560, sets guidelines and direction to her office, the sheriff, and social services. Those items are taken care of in Northampton, but the bill would make them a requirement.

The proposal is favored by local activist Connie Burford, who says she wants justice for her uncle, Ricky Burford, 68, a retired Accomack County Public Schools’ teacher.

Her uncle’s cousin, Terry Lynn Carver, 63, and husband, Keith Earl Carver, 53, were indicted on six counts each of financial exploitation of a mentally incapacitated person earlier this year. Ricky Burford, who has multi-infarct dementia, was the victim. The incidents occurred in 2018 on May 28 and 30 and June 3, 5, 9, and 12. Each charge involved defrauding of more than $500. Since last May, the couple has been living in a building that belongs to the victim. 

Connie Burford said one of the charges involves the couple using Ricky Burford’s debit card at an ATM multiple times, taking out as much as $800 in one visit.

Circuit Court Judge W. Revell Lewis III has removed himself from the case, which will be heard by Judge H. Thomas Padrick Jr. The Carvers were not available for comment. The criminal case has been in the courts since last August with no date set for trial. 

Connie Burford said she found drug paraphernalia under a cushion on her uncle’s front porch when she went there to clean. She turned the paraphernalia over to the county sheriff’s department, she said.

Connie Burford also said her uncle was declared incompetent because he was given the wrong prescription at the pharmacy, which caused his insulin levels to be off. For six months in 2018, the retired teacher was over medicated, according to Connie Burford.

Meanwhile, the court asked Jewish Family Services (JFS), in Norfolk, to take charge of Burford’s money and oversee his well-being.  JFS is charging him for the service. Connie Burford said agency workers rarely see her uncle. “He was in the hospital at least twice but they didn’t know it,” and his phone, satellite dish, and other bills were paid late, with fees being added because of the delinquency. “Some bills haven’t been paid at all,” Connie Burford said. 

She showed the Eastern Shore Post warning letters Ricky Burford was sent about his tardiness. A reporter called the agency when his electric bill hadn’t been paid in December and he had received notice that it would be shut off. This despite his earnings from Social Security and the Virginia Retirement System of more than $4,200 a month that go directly to the agency. The bill was quickly paid.

Greg Pomije, of the law firm Cooper, Spong, and Davis, returned the reporter’s query for JFS. 

“They have been trying to get the bills directed to Jewish Family Services addresses,” he said. “They haven’t been getting the bills.”

This week, nearly two months later, another late notice for Ricky Burford’s satellite TV service was received.

This week, he had an appointment that had been scheduled for months. He hoped a doctor would reverse his competency status, his niece said. That meeting was canceled by the JFS agent because the worker couldn’t attend.

Two other legislative bills have gotten attention. The Equal Rights Amendment and decriminalization of simple marijuana possession are unlikely to go forward with committees passing both issues by “indefinitely.” 

The bill to stop offshore drilling also failed.

A bill that would repeal the prohibition on carrying a gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger, or another dangerous weapon, without good and sufficient reason, in a place of worship during a religious meeting was passed in a 21-19 vote in the Senate Jan. 24.

A bill that makes a defendant convicted of a capital case, who had a severe mental illness at the time of an offense, ineligible for the death penalty passed in the Senate in a 23 -17 vote and was placed on the House calendar on Jan. 21.

A bill that would have allowed the carrying of a concealed weapon without a permit was defeated in the Senate in an 18-19 vote on Jan. 28.

There was a close 51-48 vote in the Senate favoring catastrophic health care plans be available to everyone.