TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The state's Elder Affairs Office has named a new director of guardianship, roughly six months after the previous director resigned amid a backlog of complaints against guardians.
- State hired new director of guardianship in December, it said Wednesday
- Previous guardianship director stepped down amid complaint backlog
- Moves come in wake of ongoing state guardianship program controversy
Chante’ Jones was hired as the director of the Office of Public and Professional Guardians in December 2019, the Governor's Office announced Wednesday.
"She understands the importance of customer service and believes in accountability for the taxpayer," Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom said in a released statement. "I am confident that under Chante’s strong leadership, the office will earn back the trust of Florida families and support the agency’s mission to promote the well-being, safety and independence of Florida’s seniors, their families and caregivers.”
The former guardianship director, Carol Berkowitz, resigned July 12, 2019 in a one-page resignation letter amid a backlog of more than 80 complaints against guardians and growing concerns about Orlando-based professional guardian Rebecca Fierle.
"We have made mistakes in our office," Prudom told Spectrum News at the time. "We have not processed these complaints as efficiently and quickly as we need to. We need to be more responsive to the complainants and their rights. I take personal responsibility for that."
The Office of Public and Professional Guardians is a part of the state's Office of Elder Affairs. It appoints public guardian offices and provides guardianship services to people who can't afford a private guardian and don't have anyone willing to serve as a guardian. The OPPG also trains and registers professional guardians and investigates and disciplines guardians found to have broken rules.
Legislators in Tallahassee are crafting legislation to toughen guardianship laws. A state Senate bill designed to create stricter guidelines for guardians passed its first committee on Wednesday, the Children, Families and Elder Affairs committee.
Jones earned a juris doctorate from Barry University in May 2018 and has a master's degree in management information systems from Nova Southeastern, according to the news release. She previously worked for Verizon Communications's corporate office in Tampa and has more than 20 years of corporate experience.