Thursday, September 5, 2013

Conservators---Going Above and Beyond

When we cover guardianships and conservatorships in our elder law classes, it's typical to cover the circumstances under which one may be needed, terminology, process, duties, obligations, statutes, and all that nuts and bolts stuff that is important to a student's understanding but perhaps not illustrative of the interesting nature of the practice. Typically the news stories deal with guardians or conservators who breach their duties. Many articles deal with how to improve the system (for example, the Third National Guardianship Summit (papers published in the University of Utah  Law Review). There is the upcoming Third World Congress on Guardianship which focuses on post-appointment issues.

Gadsden-logo-300x192So, I was pleased to see a story that shows a conservator going above and beyond in discharging his duties.  Robert Fleming is the conservator for an individual who owns the Gadsen Hotel in  Douglas, Arizona (population slightly over 18,000).

Robert is a dear friend, an accomplished author and speaker,  and long-time leader in the field. He also teaches in our LL.M. in Elder Law (which makes that sentence a shameless program and colleague promotion--a 2 for 1!).

But the "where" of the story is somewhat unusual.  In fact, until Robert told me about this, I had never heard of the television show Hotel Impossible.  Robert and the general manager almost simultaneously it seems, came up with the idea of contacting the show to see if the show would feature the Gadsen in an episode. The Gadsen had been losing money every year (starting well before the conservatorship was established), and it was clear that, as the conservator, Robert needed to take some action.

When you think of the actions a conservator might typically take, you might think of selling the hotel, bringing in a different management company, closing the hotel or some kind of different financing structure. But would you have ever thought of a conservator contacting a hotel reality show that has a goal of bringing in the star of the show to develop a plan to turn around a problem hotel? According to the show's website:

So what's a struggling hotel operator to do? Bring in Anthony Melchiorri, a hotel "fixer," who can turn any establishment around in weeks ... and he does just that in Hotel Impossible...

Each episode features a hotel that is having problems or is not living up to it's potential. Melchiorri secretly scouts the property and identifies its biggest problems. He then meets with the staff from front desk receptionists to housekeeping to the owners themselves to determine the key operation issues. Some owners could risk losing their hotels if Melchiorri’s renovations do not work. After coming up with a plan and prescribing the changes that need to be made, Melchiorri revamps and re-motivates the staff and transforms the hotel ...

The show did in fact pick the Gadsen as one of the hotels for  season 3, with the episode airing on August 26, 2013.  You can watch some of the video clips from the episode on the show's website, with some highlights available here.  Mr. Melchiorri developed a plan to turn around the hotel. Robert, as conservator, presented the plan to the court, which approved it, and he has begun the plan's implementation. 

Let me know if you have any similar stories of conservators going above and beyond that you use in your classes.


Becky Morgan

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