Florida guardian resigns from all cases amid state criminal investigation
'Something needs to be -- and will be -- done.'
ORLANDO, Fla. – Late Friday evening, the Department of Elder Affairs confirmed Central Florida Guardian Rebecca Fierle submitted a letter of resignation to the Office of Public and Professional Guardians to remove herself as a registered professional guardian in Florida.
In the letter, Fierle writes that she is seeking a discharge in all her cases and has instructed her attorneys to file resignations in court.
She stated successor guardians would be appointed, but she could not give a timeline of when that would happen.
Fierle also wrote that she would not seek reappointments in any of her guardian cases, nor would she seek future appointments as a guardian.
Her website and Facebook page state she had more than 20 years of professional experience in caring for the elderly and disabled.
But the website was taken down once an Orange County judge removed Fierle from nearly 100 cases in Orange and Osceola counties, stating she had abused her power when she placed do not resuscitate orders on clients without their consent, and in some cases, against their wishes.
The judge also reversed all the DNR orders Fierle had administered in those cases.
The judge’s action came the same week that a state investigative report was released, showing that state investigators determined that Fierle's decision to place a DNR order on 74-year-old Steven Stryker of Orlando, despite his objections, led to his death and prevented hospital staff from performing lifesaving measures when he started choking.
His daughter Kim Stryker, who lives near Washington D.C, talked with News 6 on July 12 via Skype.
“He didn’t deserve this,” said Kim Stryker. “He specifically expressed that he did not want to have a DNR on his health records.”
On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered a statewide investigation into Fierle’s actions and into the guardian program.
The announcement came on the heels of the resignation of Carol Berkowitz, who was the executive director of the Office of Public and Professional Guardians since March 2017.
Then on Thursday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed it was launching a criminal investigation into Fierle’s actions.
Earlier in the month the Orange County comptroller released its own professional guardian investigation which found money spent without receipts or support documents, missing lists of employees as required, and the hiring of relatives.
Today, Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom released this statement to News 6 stating the need for greater accountability and faster response times.
"Rebecca Fierle failed nearly 100 families who entrusted their loved ones to her care. We will continue to work with law enforcement and the courts to hold bad actors who violate the trust of our most vulnerable citizens and their families accountable,” said Prudom. “The mission of the Guardianship program is to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our elderly and disabled community receive the proper care and support they so rightly deserve. This is a priority for Governor DeSantis, and it is my priority as well.
To ensure that this occurs, I have made immediate administrative changes to improve our response time and thoroughly and expeditiously review complaints we have received. If complaints are received that demonstrate legally sufficient evidence of abuse, neglect or malfeasance, we refer those complaints to the appropriate authorities.
The Governor and I will pursue legislative changes to grant the Department of Elder Affairs the necessary oversight authority to guarantee our ability to ensure that neglect and abuse to the frailest of the frail never occurs again. Something needs to be—and will be—done."
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