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EDITORIAL: Guarding the guardians

Clark County commissioners were in rare form Tuesday, expressing shock — Shock! — and outrage — Outrage! — over abuses carried out by court-appointed guardians. Last week, the Review-Journal reported the miserable oversight failures of the system that’s supposed to protect the estates of thousands of elderly and mentally incapacitated residents, and in their first meeting since those reports, commissioners were eager to blame anyone but themselves.

“Why has this been a best-kept secret?” Commissioner Lawrence Weekly asked.

It hasn’t. Those who’ve seen loved ones ripped off and who’ve struggled to save them from court-appointed cons have been hollering for help for years. Commissioner Tom Collins admitted as much in Tuesday’s meeting, when he recalled how he personally intervened on behalf of a friend whose grandmother couldn’t be freed from a guardianship. He said he called and called, but it took him seven months to get the job done.

“It was because of my title of county commissioner,” Mr. Collins said at the meeting. “If I was just Joe Blow out there at sea, I would not have gotten the time of day.”

Exactly. So why didn’t Mr. Collins do anything about it? Why didn’t he use the power of his office to hold the entire system accountable? Why did he wait until Tuesday to suggest firing Guardianship Commissioner Jon Norheim?

The District Court operation has allowed people to be stripped of hundreds of thousands of dollars while not enforcing guardian reporting requirements and ignoring wards and their families.

Commissioners have vowed to get the travesty straightened out. And the Legislature is considering reforms to improve guardian credentials and allow involvement of out-of-state relatives. Hallelujah.

But better oversight of guardians starts with the elected stewards entrusted by voters. It starts with the County Commission.

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