CLINTON — Clinton County officials have appointed the Muscatine County Public Trust Program as the county’s public payee, public guardian and public conservator.

Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf recommended the Board of Supervisors designate Brian P. Donnelly, P.C., of Mayer, Lonergan, Rolfes Law Firm and Sarah Oldsen of the Law Office of Sarah Oldsen to serve as legal counsel for the public trust program’s services on behalf of Clinton County residents.

The legal counsel fees are $300 minimum per case. Legal counsel will be reimbursed at $120 per hour if hourly work exceeds the minimum. The Public Trust Program requires the assistance of legal counsel. Wolf stated the county is trying to move away from a county position of public guardian to a regional position.

“We have a limited public payee program here but at times instead of a conservator guardian sometimes it’s easier and better that there just be a public program itself to have something recognized by the County Board of Supervisors as to what they wish to have as their public guardian and what they wish to recognize as their public guardian. It helps authoritatively when I’m in court to let the courts know this is the county’s established public guardian and to recognize that when I’m before the court.”

The Muscatine County Public Trust program will have its own discretion for the rules and guidelines for what cases it will or will not take on for the county. Wolf stated there is a greater need than resources available and it is important to be selective of the most needy cases. He stated the county and the Muscatine County Public Trust program, after approval of the resolution, would come to an agreement of memorandum of understanding to set up rules on who they will accept for the program. Wolf added one issue the county has seen is the lack of liability protection when the Clinton County Attorney’s Office takes on these cases.

“I don’t have any liability protection in this area. When I serve as your county attorney and I prosecute cases, the prosecutor by statute has statutory immunity for obvious reasons,” Wolf said. “I wouldn’t go and prosecute any cases if I was liable for them. So they want to encourage obviously there’s a reason for that when I prosecute the State’s cases. But here there is no statutory authority for liability issues. You’re liable for your practice in law. And it would be cheaper in the long run just to have the designated attorneys.”

Wolf added that the Muscatine County Public Trust program recently took on more of a dependent adult abuse approach toward which cases they take. Their focus is on ones where there is someone taking advantage of someone else financially. Wolf stated they have taken a dual approach of both the public guardian and conservator.

“It’s appropriate in those cases where maybe somebody who has power of attorney and they’re taking advantage of somebody’s checking account or something like that they would then go in and ask the court to designate them as the guardian and conservator in the case,” Wolf said. “But it creates somewhat of a conflict for me if I’m representing them in the civil case and then I want to turn around and prosecute it on the criminal case as well for dependent adult abuse. So it puts me in an awkward place, too.”

The Clinton County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution appointing the Muscatine County Public Trust program as Clinton County’s public payee, public guardian and public conservator. The resolution designates Clinton County legal counsel for the program.

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