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Tragedy Turned Tabloid
As a physician concerned about the health care of prisoners, I was saddened by the irresponsible media hype in "Death Sentence" (Bay View, Nov. 15). Both Judy Greenspan and Joe Bick are committed to improving the quality of care provided to the more than 150,000 individuals who are currently incarcerated in California. Your reporter's point/counterpoint perspective and front-page portrayal of observational epidemiologic studies as "playing God" makes for good tabloid drivel but does nothing to advance this serious cause.

Peter M. Small, M.D.
Stanford University
Palo Alto

Nunsuch Halloween
Sister Kitty Catalyst seems bent on rewriting history ("Making a Habit of Safety," Letters, Nov. 15).

After the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence suddenly dropped out of all efforts to manage Halloween in the Castro last July, Community United Against Violence (CUAV) decided to continue with the event. We felt we could not abandon the Castro to the thugs and drunks who had turned a fun street party into a frightening melee.

Working together with residents and merchants -- and with the blessing of the Sisters themselves -- we were able to achieve three goals: We hired professional security to make the event safer than it has been for years; we asked for admissions to pay for the expense of security; and we laid the groundwork for moving the event in 1996 by setting aside funds for planning this big move.

We even achieved something more: We were able to raise funds to support the work of community groups.

CUAV has been present at every single Halloween in the Castro since its inception, working with no remuneration during most of those many years. We have had good experiences and bad. What we proved this year, quite happily, is that sometimes when you take responsible community action, even in the face of adversity, things turn out for the best. Sister Kitty is crying over sour milk.

Lester Olmstead-Rose, Executive Director
Community United Against Violence
San Francisco

Conservator Caveat
We feel George Cothran's article "Guardian Angels?" (Bay View, Nov. 8) left some very one-sided and misleading impressions about the role of private professional conservators in San Francisco.

The source for your article is a perfect example of why professional conservators are sometimes needed. As a tenant in the building, the woman in the article had an obvious potential conflict with an outside professional: i.e., the conservator may need to raise the rent to cover the landlord's increased need for care. Thus, conflicts can easily develop between family/extended family members and a professional conservator.

All conservators are under the supervision of the Superior Court and can be held financially responsible for mismanagement of a disabled person's resources. The care they provide can be called into question at any time. A complaint can be filed about a conservator with the Superior Court investigators' unit, which promptly follows up with an investigation and can have the conservator removed, if appropriate.

The assets of a conservatee are protected by a bond that will reimburse the estate if funds are missing. Therefore the estate is not at risk if financial abuse is found to have taken place. Conservators will be required to repay the estate for any funds that are misspent.

In San Francisco, no professional conservator of which we are aware has had court approval for fees in excess of $65 an hour; most professionals charge under this rate. Your source for the claim of fees from $65 to $150 an hour could not have consulted with or been appointed a conservator in San Francisco before making this inflammatory statement.

In conclusion, your story could have been very useful if it listed the contact numbers for where to take complaints of neglect or abuse by conservators. Perhaps in the future it would be in the public interest to get correct information and both sides of the story before publishing.

Jeanne S. Robinson, Chairwoman
Private Practice Committee
Coalition of Agencies Serving the Elderly
San Francisco

George Cothran replies: On the issue of fees, several trust and estate attorneys said that lawyers representing conservators could receive up to $150 an hour from conservatees' estates. As for conflicts of interest, when Janet O'Sorio was under threat of eviction by conservator Bertha Joung, it was not over a rent increase. In fact, Joung never gave a reason for the attempted eviction, because the law did not require her to do so.


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