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Absences mark candidate's board tenure

Mary Brennan has missed most meetings of an advocacy program for the elderly.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 2, 2000


PINELLAS PARK -- While running for the state Legislature, Mary Brennan has trumpeted her concern for the elderly and her appointment as an advocate for seniors who complain about nursing home care.

But Brennan has missed most of the monthly meetings of the advocate's council and has let cases languish for months, a situation that has angered one of her fellow ombudsmen.

"Things like this bother me," said Chester LaDue, a St. Pete Beach resident. "Does this reflect Mary Brennan's concern for the elderly?"

Brennan, a Democrat opposing incumbent Leslie Waters, R-Seminole, in the race for state House District 51, said it is "ridiculous" to think she does not truly care about the elderly.

Some meetings were missed, she said, because of illness and others because of conflicts. Until this year, she said, her attendance had been regular.

Brennan denied she has allowed cases to fall by the wayside. Some paperwork is overdue, she said, because the cases have not been resolved. When that happens, she will turn in the paperwork.

"I don't really see the point," said Brennan, a former state representative. "I have an excellent record taking care of seniors. ... I don't think anyone can question the amount of work I've done for older people over the years."

Brennan was appointed in 1999 to a three-year term as a long-term care ombudsman, a volunteer position. The ombudsman's role is to check out complaints the elderly may have about nursing home care. Those complaints could range from outright abuse to dislike of the food a facility serves.

Brennan was assigned 20 cases, said Betty Camblor, coordinator of the Pinellas Long Term Care Ombudsman Program.

Camblor conceded that the council has turned over no new cases to Brennan. Part of that is because Brennan is busy with the campaign, Camblor said, and the other reason is that Brennan has not reported on most of those cases.

Brennan said most of those cases revolve around one nursing home. Once those cases are resolved, she said, she'll turn in the paperwork.

Brennan said she resigned from the council effective last Monday. The resignation states the reason as a lack of time because of an inflexible schedule.

Also worrisome to LaDue is the frequency with which Brennan misses the group's meetings.

Meeting minutes show that Brennan has attended only three of the past 10.

That's more than enough, LaDue said, to get people kicked off the council. The rules state that ombudsmen must have no more than three absences. In fact, he said, one man was voted off just this past month for missing too many meetings.

At the same meeting, he said, there was a move to kick Brennan off. But he was the only member to vote to terminate her membership.

"If you don't participate, get out of the ship," LaDue said. "Her cronies came to her rescue."

Camblor conceded that ombudsmen can be terminated for not attending meetings unless they have cause. The ombudsman, she said, should keep in touch and give the reasons for the absence. Camblor conceded Brennan's calls have been sporadic.

"We all know she's been busy with the election," said Camblor, who has contributed $25 to Brennan's campaign, election records show.

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