The little-known state nursing home ombudsman program, which act as independent watchdogs on the nursing home industry in every state, has been in the headlines recently.
First, Florida’s new governor raised the ire of consumer advocates by canning the state ombudsman director in an apparent quid-pro-quo for gubernatorial campaign contributions from the nursing home industry.
But in Iowa this week, state Long-Term Care Ombudsman Jeanne Yordi is under scrutiny for her personal ties to the nursing home industry. Yordi retained as her personal lawyer one Kendal Watkins, an Iowa attorney known for representing the nursing home industry in cases where they’re accused of abusing or neglecting older adults. Watkins has represented the nursing home industry in dozens of cases, including cases against Yordi’s bosses in the Iowa Department of Aging.
Yordi’s response when questioned:
“I just don’t think what I do in my personal life is anyone’s business,” she said. “He represents lots of people in addition to the nursing home industry, and he is an attorney in Des Moines.”
The Des Moines Register published a long investigative piece generally painting Yordi as not being vocal enough in defense of older Iowans. Certainly, Yordi has the right to the lawyer of her choice. But her choice still leaves the appearance of impropriety and demonstrates a lack of judgement for someone who is supposed to be the state’s top nursing home watchdog. Des Moines Register reader charleswood6969 writes:
I think the long-term care ombudsman’s office should have someone in charge who is loud-mouthed and unashamed of it. Whoever has that job should have big shoes and not afraid to use them to kick someone’s rear if needed. Seems we lack that at this point.
Her hiring that attorney for a personal matter might look somewhat shady, but, attorneys have a code of conduct too. If it was truly a personal matter, and in no way infringed on her job, then I see no impropriety.
Read more than 60 other comments on the story here.. H/T to @ElderPlanning for tipping us off to the story.