LINCOLN — The Nebraska Supreme Court has ordered a systematic review of every guardianship assigned to a Gering woman who was arrested for allegedly embezzling thousands of dollars intended for elderly, blind and disabled residents.
The review was ordered in the wake of a state audit that criticized county courts and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services for their lack of oversight of two state programs.
Judith Widener, 70, was arrested Friday.
She ran a company, Safe Haven Inc., that had been assigned by county courts to act as the guardian for more than 600 clients in nearly 60 counties across the state.
State Auditor Mike Foley alleged that Widener took funds intended for her clients and used them for personal use, including casino gambling.
Foley said it was absurd that court officials would assign so many cases to Widener, including cases far away from her base in Gering. He questioned whether court officials were checking on whether she filed annual reports, as required.
Foley also criticized HHS for improper payouts of nearly $400,000 through the Assistance to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled and the State Disability Program
Janet Bancroft, a spokeswoman for the Supreme Court, said the review was ordered shortly after Foley released the audit on Monday.
In a statement Tuesday, she said court magistrates across the state will examine Widener’s cases for financial impropriety and to determine who had requested the appointment of Widener.
The state court system, in recent years, has conducted a review of guardianships. Advocates have called for the creation of a state office of public guardians to take cases, instead of private entities like Safe Haven.