Nessel relieves 4 lawyers of duties to administer certain estates

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Friday relieved four public administrators of their responsibilities in Oakland and Macomb counties, including two who have been linked to guardianship problems in those counties. 

The decision to relieve four of the 104 public administrators of their state-delegated duty to administer deceased estates where there is no family was made after Nessel’s months-long elder abuse listening tour.

In this June 4, 2019, photo, Dana Nessel, Attorney General of Michigan, listens to a question from reporters in Detroit.

The four lawyers relieved of their responsibilities were Robert Kirk in Macomb County Probate Court and John Yun, Thomas Fraser and Jennifer Carney in Oakland County Probate Court.

“Now that we’ve concluded our elder abuse listening tour, our office is taking a fresh look at how we provide critical services and resources to Michigan residents based on the feedback we received,” Nessel said in a statement Friday. “After reevaluating our needs, we decided to relieve these public administrators of their appointments.”

Kirk and Fraser had been highlighted in a WXYZ investigation revealing problems at the guardianship company Caring Hearts Michigan, owned by Kirk’s wife, and a guardianship case for which Fraser billed more than $17,000 in attorney fees.

When asked about the reasoning for relieving those specific lawyers, Nessel’s office gave few details.

“This was an internal decision made, in part, based on the feedback our office received from the communities we visited during our elder abuse listening tour,” said Nessel’s spokesman Dan Olsen.

The Attorney General’s office is tasked with appointing public administrators to help manage deceased estates as needed in Michigan’s 83 counties when no family is available or no estate is opened.

When contacted Friday, Kirk said he was informed of his removal by phone, but said he usually only handled one or two cases a year. He served as public administrator in Macomb County for 30 years.

In a Friday statement, Carney said she was honored to serve Oakland County residents for the four years she served in the position.

“I am saddened by the attorney general’s decision to terminate my appointment as a county public administrator, but my work as an advocate for the protection of vulnerable adults will continue,” Carney said.

Yun and Fraser did not immediately return calls for comment.

Nessel launched the Elder Abuse Task Force in March to address the legal, social and judicial shortfalls that have contributed to the abuse of the state’s 73,000 older adults. The task force has resulted in several elder abuse charges across the state since then.

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