A court-appointed professional guardian for Mary Montgomery — multi-millionaire widow of famed litigator Robert Montgomery — spirited the Palm Beach socialite from her mansion to an undisclosed nursing home where the 86-year-old is kept in a small room, fed institutional-style food and subject to substandard medical care, her daughter alleges in court documents.
Courtnay Montgomery claims guardian John Cramer violated state law by never seeking or obtaining a court order to remove Mary Montgomery — who suffers from dementia — from her Palm Beach home, known as Sin Cuidado, according to a blistering petition filed on Wednesday.
“This guardian has abused his powers and failed to properly discharge his duties,” wrote attorney Jennifer Carroll on Courtnay Montgomery’s behalf. “He has not acted in good faith and has acted contrary to the best interests of his ward.”
Complicating matters is the fact that Courtnay is facing charges she siphoned nearly $200,000 from her mother in Minnesota and has been ordered by the court there to not contact her mother until a probable cause hearing is held. Carroll says people in Florida are pushing misinformation to law enforcement for their own agendas and that the Minnesota charges against her client are frivolous.
“This is an egregious case. I took it because I thought both Mary and Courtnay are not being treated right,” she said. “There are so many components to it. It is a mess that has to be unraveled.”
Cramer, contacted through e-mail, referred questions to his attorney, Mitch Kitroser, who said he will be filing a response with the court. Kitroser noted Courtnay Montgomery agreed in March to the appointment of a professional guardian for her mom.
“John Cramer is my client and he’s doing everything that he believes is in Mary’s best interest and any disagreements are best left to the courts and should not be fought out in the public. I’d like to respect the family’s privacy,” Kitroser said.
A Nov. 1 hearing is scheduled to sort out a lot of these issues with the aim of returning Mary Montgomery to her Palm Beach home, he said.
This is not the first time attorney Carroll and Cramer have squared off in a guardianship.
Carroll successfully fought to have Cramer removed as guardian for Boynton Beach senior J. Alan Smith when an appellate court ruled a senior’s advanced health directives trumps the court’s power to appoint a guardian.
Cramer also placed Smith in a nursing home — against the wishes of his wife — and then successfully annulled his marriage. The Smith guardianship is in front of the Florida Supreme Court on the annulment issue.
But unlike Smith, Mary Montgomery is worth millions and her daughter is her sole beneficiary. The octogenarian receives more than $1.5 million every four months from tobacco-fee payments stemming from one of her husband’s crowning courtroom achievements, the landmark case that forced tobacco companies to pay $11.3 billion to Florida.
The couple were known for their philanthropy. Robert Montgomery died in 2008 after battling cancer.
“This is an attempt to get rid of me so they can liquidate everything and then leave me nothing,” Courtnay Montgomery said. “There is a problem with guardians depleting seniors’ assets.”
The state legislature moved earlier this year to regulate the professional guardianship industry that has come under fire nationwide for bilking and abusing seniors. The Palm Beach Post series, Guardianships: A Broken Trust, found rampant conflict of interest and favoritism.
“The truth needs to come out and people need to know what is going on,” Courtnay Montgomery said.
The drama surrounding Mary Montgomery started last year when a routine trip to visit her daughter ended with her staying in Minnesota and firing all of her staff.
When Mary Montgomery didn’t return to Florida, her accountant, Richard Rampell, contacted Minnesota authorities. After a welfare check by Olmsted County sheriff deputies, Courtnay was charged with trying to bite an investigator. She was put on probation, but was charged last month in Minnesota with siphoning off more than $188,000 from her mother’s accounts.
Courtnay Montgomery denies the charges. She returned to Florida with her mother in December when a temporary guardianship for her mother expired in Minnesota. Cramer was appointed in March as Mary Montgomery’s guardian in a hearing that was closed to the media.
Cramer on July 14 moved Mary Montgomery to a secret location under the guise that he was taking her to physical therapy, according to the petition. As a professional guardian of person and property, Cramer has complete control over Mary Montgomery’s life and millions of dollars.
“Cramer caused Mary Montgomery to be taken from her family home of 20-plus years — away from her familiar and comfortable surroundings; away from her social life and care by her only daughter; away from her beloved parrots, swans and dogs,” the petition to remove the guardian states.
Courtnay later learned that her mother had been moved to a nursing home in downtown West Palm Beach.
Mary Montgomery is kept in a 500- to 600-square-foot room, fed on trays with “institutional food” and placed in front of a television for entertainment, her daughter claims in the petition. No telephone contact is allowed. Her medications have been replaced with generics in which she is known to be allergic, the petition states.
Cramer has sought the “least expensive” care for Montgomery even though she has the means to received the highest quality and is accustomed to such care, the petition reads.
Carroll argues in the petition that putting Mary Montgomery in a strange environment and away from her daughter is detrimental to the senior’s health. “The reasons advanced by this guardian are unsubstantiated and spurious at best,” the petition reads.
Furthermore, Cramer has canceled Mary Montgomery’s social memberships and she no longer goes to weekly lunches or the opera with her daughter.
“John Cramer removed Mary from an environment where she had social stimulation,” the petition reads. “It is believed that Mary, with the right care, in her home environment, can return to her normal social life once again.”
In a separate complaint filed last month, Courtnay Montgomery is seeking to remove former caregiver Hilda Santana as trustee for her mother. She accused Santana of financial exploitation of her mother.
Santana’s attorney, Ed Downey, said Mary Montgomery is “well taken care of and well provided for.”
“It is not a surprising filing because I just know she (Courtnay) is frustrated about all of the circumstances,” Downey said. “But we are working our way through it. Everything is working fine for Mrs. Montgomery.”