The following letter was sent out at the end of May of 2002 in a mass mailing to all of the members of the Iowa Grievance Commission. This action was taken after repeated attempts to get the administrator of the Ethics Board for the Iowa Bar to explain his rationale for not pursuing the ethics complaint against this attorney. This action was also taken after he (Norman Bastemeyer) rudely ignored two of our family members when they tried to present him with evidence at his office in Des Moines earlier in May of 2002. Both of those family members were and still are business professionals. As we have discovered, the bureaucratic system is inept and indifferent in so many different ways.
As we have learned throughout this process, only one man in the State of Iowa has absolute control over whether or not attorneys are held accountable for their ethics and investigated by the Iowa Bar and the Supreme Court. That one man happens to be Norman Bastemeyer, and he decides whether or not the rest of the Ethics Board even hears a case in the first place. So, he is the gatekeeper, and it is highly problematic that so much power is centralized in the hands of one person who happens to be an indolent bureaucrat biding his time until retirement.
Mr. Bastemeyer is supposed to do investigations when he receives an ethics complaint. However, as we have discovered, all that so-called "investigation" process entails is sending a copy of the ethics complaint to the attorney with a request for a response. The attorney then has to respond; however, the person filing the complaint never gets to see a copy of the response from the attorney. And Mr. Bastemeyer apparently never bothers to double-check or investigate what the attorney tells him in the response.
Instead, because Mr. Bastemeyer lazily accepted the response of the attorney -- again, which was filled with lies -- Mr. Bastemeyer ended up making totally incorrect statements in response to the ethics complaint. He was verifiably wrong on essential facts pertaining to the matter, and we have proof of this. He had been apparently misinformed about legal proceedings by this attorney, and yet Mr. Bastemeyer never bothered to double-check to see if what this attorney was telling him matched-up with court records. And much of what he was told was in total contradiction to the facts of the matter and in total contradiction to our reputations.
So much for seeking justice through the Ethics Board. Something is inherently wrong about an ethics system in which the complainant is not allowed to see the respondent's response, and thus never gets the opportunity to openly and fairly challenge the details of the response. This results in a lack of accountability on the part of the ethics administrator, who need not investigate what he is told if nobody sees the response.
As a result of Mr. Bastemeyer's indifference (and rudeness), the following letter was written and sent out, along with evidence, to every individual member of the Grievance Commission. Ultimately, we were informed that due to rules, the Grievance Commission was not capable of adjudicating this complaint without it going through the earlier stages; yet, nonetheless, we wanted to make it clear that the system is screwed-up and needs renovation, especially when it pertains to such serious matters as this one. And some members of the Grievance Commission were kind enough to respond regardless of their incapacity to act under the circumstances. They were much more polite and generous with their time than the ethics administrator himself.
Members of Grievance Commission
XXXXX, IA XXXXX
Dear Mr.XXXX XXXX:
I am addressing you in your capacity as a member of the Grievance Commission for the Iowa Supreme Court. For reasons outlined in this complaint regarding the misconduct of an attorney, I believe that the Administrator of the Ethics Board, Mr. Norman Bastemeyer, has not given due and fair consideration to a previous complaint that I submitted in October 2001 to Mr. Bastemeyer and the Ethics Board. I am not certain if the full Ethics Board even received that complaint (#0102-149). Not only has he not given fair consideration, but he has misrepresented the premises of the previous complaint in both a telephone conversation and a letter addressed to me. That complaint was dismissed at the end of December 2001.
This letter, however, constitutes a new complaint based upon new and significant evidence that has appeared in the past four months. Several attorneys have advised that this is, indeed, an ethics matter and not a legal matter, contrary to Mr. Bastemeyers claims. Legal proceedings have been finished since February 25th, and there is evidence that Attorney R. John Swanson is in defiance of the Courts Ruling and a Family Agreement. There is even evidence that he has misrepresented the ruling and agreement to his alleged client, my Grandmother, and to XXXX XXXXXX, her son. I request that you examine that Ruling and Agreement, which are both attached to this complaint.
In this complaint, I would like to present that evidence to members of the Grievance Commission. I am requesting that the Grievance Commission deliberate this complaint. The premise of this complaint is that Attorney Swanson is not representing the interests of Irene Johnson (my elderly Grandmother), as he claims, but rather Atty. Swanson is representing the conflicting interests of her son, XXXX XXXXXX, who has been isolating my Grandmother away from all family members since my Grandfathers death in April 2001 and wrongly manipulating her against all family members, inclusive of her two daughters and all her grandchildren (adults). I am alleging that Attorney Swanson is assisting XXXXXX XXXXX in the isolation and manipulation/intimidation of Irene Johnson in a manner that is in contempt of the Court Ruling of February 25th and in contempt of professional ethics. I am also alleging that Attorney Swanson, contrary to his assertions, has misrepresented the wishes and interests of Irene Johnson. Not only has he misrepresented her interests in statements and letters, but he has also failed to inform her of the probate expenses and tax implications of his changes to her estate, per her testimony in court. XXXXXX XXXXX originally took Irene Johnson to Attorney Swanson in August of 2001, and Atty. Swanson gave XXXX XXXXX Power of Attorney over Irene Johnson at that time. Prior to Attorney Swanson, XXXXXX had taken her to two other attorneys immediately after my Grandfathers death, including Atty. XXX XXXX of Corning. No family members were informed of those visits until after the fact.
At 81 years old, Irene Johnson is a fragile, ninth-year dialysis patient who requires constant caretaking and assistance with the basic necessities such as eating, bathing, walking and going to the bathroom. Even Attorney Swanson has acknowledged that she is physically handicapped. She lives in a remote rural area of Villisca, Iowa. Her husband (my Grandfather) passed away on April 27, 2001, and previously, he had taken care of all business and legal matters for Irene. Irene Johnson has no prior experience with legal matters. XXXXXX XXXXX has lived in the basement of Irene Johnsons home for most of his life, and he became the default caretaker of my Grandparents during recent years. He has refused to allow the family to hire outside caretakers. In the time since my Grandfathers death, XXXXXX XXXXX and a neighbor woman have been blocking phone calls from family members, censoring/returning mail, telling Irene that she is not allowed visitors at her home, not answering the door for family visitors, locking her in the home, and lying to her about the intentions of other family members. He also has guns in the home that intimidate family members from even attempting to visit. These are all classic signs of elder abuse. I have taped evidence of this psychological abuse. When family members have tried to visit, XXXXXX has wrongly accused them of harassment, and Attorney Swanson has assisted XXXXXX XXXXX in the filing of bogus charges of harassment, in an effort to keep them away from my Grandmother. Please note that the Judge outright dismissed the temporary injunction against XXXXX and XXXXX, my Grandmothers daughters. (see Section 5) Attorney Swanson lacked evidence for those charges, although he tried to claim to Mr. Bastemeyer, in his response to the earlier complaint, that the charges had merit. The Judge ruled that those charges had no merit and immediately canceled the temporary injunction and canceled the hearing on those charges, as well.
Attorney Swanson and XXXXXX XXXXX are not allowing Irene Johnson to directly express her discretion to family members because phone calls and home visits with family members are being entirely obstructed and have been obstructed since the trial in February and before February (as far back as June 2001). Aside from dialysis treatments at the hospital, family members are being denied access to Irene Johnson at her home, so she is not being allowed to express herself. Moreover, Attorney Swanson has been repeatedly calling the hospital administrators and demanding that they not let her family members see Irene Johnson during dialysis treatments. In the past, he has tried to tell the hospital not to notify any family members if anything happens to Irene. The only reason that Attorney Swanson is aware of those hospital visits is because the neighbor woman, who is involved in this isolation scheme, takes my Grandmother to dialysis and will call Attorney Swanson if she sees family members at the hospital. The hospital administrators have told Attorney Swanson that they will only honor the wishes of Irene Johnson, not "her" attorney, and those wishes are often not consistent with Mr. Swansons claims. The hospital continues to allow family to visit during her dialysis treatments, per her discretion. Please see the attached letter from Ms. XXXX XXXXXX of the Nebraska Health System (NHS), which is the organization that runs the dialysis clinic at the Shenandoah, Iowa hospital. In that letter, Ms.XXXXX notes that my Grandmother was pleased with the May 10th visit from her daughters. Irene was also pleased with an April 5th hospital visit from her daughters.
In recent weeks, Attorney Swanson has grown more persistent, and it is clear from a taped conversation with Irene that he is telling Irene that she is not allowed to see family members at dialysis treatments. Please see the attached transcript from May 20, 2002. On that tape, Irene repeatedly says that Attorney Swanson (John) told her that she was not allowed to see family members at dialysis. Please note, all legal proceedings have been finished since February. There is no reason for Attorney Swanson to be telling her that she cannot see family at the hospital. What Attorney Swanson is doing to Irene Johnson is psychological abuse. It is also in contempt of the Court Ruling, which stipulates that she has discretion, not her attorney. Her demeanor had changed significantly from the May 10th visit, when she was happy to see her daughters during their visit to dialysis. Attorney Swanson has told her that she has to do whatever her attorney tells her to do. It is significant to note that prior to my Grandfathers death, my Grandfather was responsible for all her legal and business matters. She has never dealt independently with attorneys in her entire lifetime. She is very vulnerable to manipulation because she is naive about business and legal matters. Attorney Swanson has tried to claim that she is directing him in his actions; however, this transcript clearly represents Attorney Swanson as directing my Grandmother. I ask that the Grievance Commission handle this evidence in a sensitive manner, since once the evidence is given to Attorney Swanson, it is likely that he will change his strategy of manipulating her. It is likely that he will use this evidence to intimidate and silence her further.
Furthermore, Attorney Swanson has been writing letters to my Grandfathers Trust Attorney, claiming to represent Irene Johnsons wishes. See the attached letters of April 15th and May 8th. In those letters, he claims that Irene Johnson does not want her daughters or her granddaughter (myself) to contact her or visit her. Attorney Swanson misrepresents the telephone calls. During those phone calls, XXXXXX XXXXX never allowed Irene Johnson to know who was calling for her, and he never gave the phone to Irene, even when he was asked to give the phone to Irene. Irene has never said that she did not want her daughters to call her, and she has never expressed this decision to any family members. In fact, on May 10th at her dialysis treatment, Irene Johnson said that she did not even know that her daughter had called to invite her to relatives birthday party. Attorney Swanson is lying when he says that Irene has let us know quite definitely she doesnt want them to call her or come to visit her, and you can assume that I have taped evidence of those conversations with XXXXXX XXXXX. Irene has never been allowed to express her wishes when called on the telephone. And even if she were allowed to express her wishes, she would still be subject, as a dependent adult, to XXXXXX XXXXXXs manipulation since he is her caretaker.
These letters from Attorney Swanson are in contempt of the Court Ruling, insofar as Irene Johnson is not being allowed to express her discretion on a case-by-case basis or even at all. The Ruling states, XXXXX and XXXXX are entitled to contact their mother to request an opportunity to visit with her and arrange for their mother to attend family gatherings at her discretion. In other words, the two daughters are entitled to contact their mother, and it is Irene Johnsons discretion as to whether she wants to visit with them and attend the gatherings. Attorney Swanson is trying to deny them that right to contact their mother. This takes decision-making power away from Irene, insofar as she is not being presented with opportunities to see her family. In this sense, she is not being allowed to make any decisions.
As you can see from the letters, Attorney Swanson would like to cut Irene off from all contact with all family members except for her son, XXXXXX XXXXXX. This is purely in the interest of XXXXXX XXXXX and his aspirations for inheriting her entire estate. Even if these were her wishes, which they are not, I cannot imagine why an Attorney would even advise that an elderly woman not see her family or not attempt some form of reconciliation, especially since my Grandmothers health is not good at all. Given that my Grandmother recently lost her husband and our entire family is grieving the loss of my Grandfather, the sensible recommendation would be therapy or counseling, but Attorney Swanson has repeatedly rejected that alternative. All of his actions indicate a desire to see Irene Johnson entirely cut-off from all family members except for XXXXXX XXXXX.
Finally, I would like to present evidence that even XXXXXX XXXXX has not been properly informed by Attorney Swanson of the outcome of the Court Hearing and Family Agreement, and that both he and Irene Johnson are being wrongly agitated against XXXXX and other family members. Even XXXXXX XXXXX is somewhat naive about legal matters, and there is evidence that he is partly being led along by this neighbor woman. Please see the transcript of my conversation with XXXXXX XXXXXX. I am alleging that Attorney Swanson is trying to instigate further conflict in the family by misrepresenting the reason that the Judge ruled that an outside Trustee should be appointed. Please review sections two and three of the Agreement. Initially, Attorney Swanson had made a series of accusations against XXXX for her handling of my Grandfathers Trust. He was trying to get her removed as a co-trustee and replaced with a bank trustee of his preference. He alleged that XXXXX had not consulted with her Mother, Irene, on various business decisions, when the truth was that after May, XXXX was not being allowed to consult with her Mother (who was co-trustee) by XXXXXX Johnson. During May, she had consulted with her Mother and Brother. When the evidence demonstrated that there was no merit to Mr. Swansons accusations against XXXX and that she was only following her fathers wishes in the administering of the Trust, Atty. Swanson resorted to a new estate code (633.4107 (2) (c)) that says that if there is hostility or lack of cooperation between co-trustees then an outside trustee should be appointed. (See Court Transcript) The obvious loophole in that code is that an attorney or family member can instigate conflict and agitate an elderly co-trustee such as my Grandmother with misinformation. The Judges ruling was based on that code. In the end, XXXXX was allowed to select the bank that would serve as outside Trustee, so there was no desire to appeal the Judges ruling at the time. Section 2 of the Agreement clearly states that neither XXXXX nor Irene Johnson had done anything wrong in the handling of the Trust, and the Judge also says, on page 25 of the transcript, that the evidence showed that [she] had attempted to carry out [her] view of what [her] father wanted in good faith.
However, per my telephone conversation with XXXXXX XXXXX on May 19th, XXXXXX was, rather crudely, saying that XXXX had been thrown out because she had done nasty things. XXXXXX says this over and over in the transcript. (see transcript) This is a blatant misrepresentation of the Court Ruling and Family Agreement, which says that XXXX did nothing wrong and XXXXXX himself consented to and signed. XXXXXXs statements are in contempt of that agreement, and even moreso in contempt if he is agitating his Mother with those lies. It would appear that Attorney Swanson has failed to explain to XXXXXX XXXXX, and most likely to Irene Johnson, also, the reasons and implications of the ruling and agreement. Either it is Atty. Swansons intention to continue to agitate family relations, or XXXXXX XXXXX is agitating his Mother, Irene, with misinformation. Either way, it violates the terms of the agreement.
In conclusion, I am requesting that the Grievance Commission consider this evidence and deliberate this complaint apart from any commentary by Mr. Bastemeyer. When presented with this evidence on May 14, 2002 at his office, Mr. Bastemeyer refused to look at the evidence and said that he would only accept the evidence from the daughters' attorney, Atty.XXXX XXXXX of Council Bluffs. Atty. XXXX believes there is an ethical problem here and he recommended the filing of a new complaint, but he is hesitant to submit the evidence himself due to rules that attorneys should not file complaints against other attorneys. Only later did Mr. Bastemeyer send me a letter on May 15th, qualifying that a new complaint could be submitted if that complaint didnt challenge Mr. Swansons ability to represent [my] grandmothers interests. Those terms completely undermine the premises of my complaint. It is almost as if this is an excuse not to consider any new complaint. The May 15th letter also misrepresented the premises of my previous complaint, and Mr. Bastemeyer falsely assumed that Attorney Swanson had secured an injunction. Attorney Swanson never secured an injunction. The Judge rejected the temporary injunction and cancelled the hearing.
Apparently, Mr. Bastemeyer either had not read or had ignored the many sections of the previous complaint where I alleged that my Grandmother was not being allowed to express her interests to family and had been wrongly agitated against and isolated from family members. When I spoke to Mr. Bastemeyer on December 31st of last year, he was not aware of many of the details and evidence that I had provided in the previous complaint, most especially the details about phone calls, mail and visits with my grandmother, Irene Johnson, being censored and obstructed. He was also resistant to providing a more detailed rationale for his decision. In both that phone conversation and during his brief conversation with XXXXXX and XXXXX on May 14th, Mr. Bastemeyer seemed to have an extreme and unfair prejudice against the complaint, and I believe that prejudice is based upon his unscrutinized acceptance of the lies and demonizations that have been told to him by Attorney Swanson. I dont believe that Mr. Bastemeyer or the Ethics Board have ever endeavored to investigate those lies or have fully considered the evidence submitted in refutation of those lies. With the Court Ruling and Agreement in February, Attorney Swanson has no further recourse to those lies. Legal proceedings are finished, and they have demonstrated Mr. Swansons arguments and accusations to be false.
I want to say, in closing, that even though I live and teach in XXXXXX, this complaint is based upon first-hand, direct knowledge of the circumstances. I am a native Iowan. My phone calls and mail to my Grandmother have been censored and blocked, and when I tried to visit her in November of last year, I found her all alone in her home, and unable to move from the chair in which she had been left. I have a videotape of my November visit that demonstrates that I was very gentle with my Grandmother and that she never asked me to leave during that visit. I have always had an affectionate, loving relationship with my Grandmother. And yet XXXXXX XXXXX has accused me of harassing my own Grandmother, when he was never present during that visit and was apparently very upset because I had been able to get into the home to see her by myself. Mr. Bastemeyer has suggested that he does not think these matters pertain to me, but they most certainly do pertain to me insofar as this is my Grandmother who is being abused and isolated, and there is a possibility that as a long-term dialysis patient, she does not have long to live. Hence, there is an urgency to this complaint. I would challenge Attorney Swanson to explain how it is in my Grandmothers interests for him to attempt to prevent her from seeing all of her family members, except for XXXXXX XXXXXX.
I appreciate your time and your careful deliberation of this ethics complaint. This is a rather complex matter, so if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at XXX-XXX-XXXX.
cc: Mr. Paul Weick, II, Executive Director and Assistant Court Administrator
Mr. Joel T.S. Greer, Chairperson of the Grievance Commission
Mr. Dwight Dinkla, Director of the Iowa Bar Association
Mr. James F. Smith, Chair of the Ethics Board
All members of the Iowa Grievance Commission
All members of the Iowa Board of Professional Ethics
1) Court Order and Agreement of February 25th, 2002
2) Judges Ruling at Conclusion of Trial on February 14th, 2002
3) April 15th and May 8th Letters from Atty. Swanson to Atty. XXXXXX
4) May 10th Letter from Atty. XXXXX; May 20th Letter to Atty. XXXXX
5) Letter from Nebraska Health System, Ms. XXXXX XXXXX, from May 22nd, 2002
6) Transcript with Grandmother, Irene Johnson, at Dialysis, on May 20th, 2002
7) Chart from the Iowa Elder Abuse Committee
8) Article by Dr. Margaret Singer, from the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse:
see also: http://members.aol.com/tvfields/SingerCSJArticle/Frameset019.htm
9) Background Information on the DHSs mishandling of this case and the removal of an abuse investigator
10) Emails sent to the Grievance Commission on January 9, 2002 and May 14, 2002
11) Co-executors, Letters of Appointment, February 1, 2002
12) Letter to Mr. Norman Bastemeyer, dated May 20th
13) Letter from Mr. Norman Bastemeyer, dated May 15th
14) Transcript with XXXXXX Johnson, with misinformation about Court Ruling
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