SANTA FE ― State Auditor Wayne Johnson has created a division within his office to help judges prevent court-appointed guardians and conservators from swindling the life savings of seniors and vulnerable adults.
Johnson testified before members of the Legislative Finance Committee today and told them he volunteered his office to help protect seniors from unscrupulous money managers and carry out the requirements passed by the Legislature earlier this year.
Johnson has requested an expansion of three full-time employees (FTE) to staff the guardianship/conservatorship program on an ongoing basis. Currently the staff power is funded by the contract with AOC for $300,000 in services, but that funding ends June 30, 2019.
“Implementing some type of audit system in the guardianship program just makes sense for people who are relying on strangers to manage their life-savings and expend it responsibly on their behalf, says Johnson. “We’ve seen horror stories over the last few years where seniors have lost their life savings. That shouldn’t happen. I’m committed to working with New Mexico families, judges, legislators, and anyone else with a stake in our guardianship program, to safeguard our seniors and other vulnerable adults.”
Johnson’s office has entered into an agreement with the New Mexico judicial branch to audit conservatorship reports as requested by individual district judges and assisting the courts in identifying conservators who are mismanaging or misspending funds. The OSA is also conducting an audit of the approximately 916 cases handled by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) to assess compliance by the state’s contract guardian/conservators.
State Senator John Arthur Smith, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, praised the effort to protect seniors, saying, “Three branches of government are working together. We hear on TV and radio every day what’s wrong with New Mexico. This is what’s right.”
Auditor Johnson became involved in the Conservatorship Steering Committee chaired by District Judge Shannon Bacon shortly after the passage of Senate Bill 19. The OSA has actively worked with the Courts and members of the Steering Committee to develop a process for the auditing expertise of the OSA to be utilized by the Judiciary to meet the intent of SB19.