Two service provider employees involved in the care of Marci Garvin, a severely disabled woman who died from neglect in March 2013, contributed to the woman’s death, an administrative law judge has ruled.
William “Bill” Eaton and Dianne Salas failed to ensure that the Fort Worth woman was living in a safe environment and receiving needed services and medical care, according to A. Shawn Richards, an administrative law judge in the appeals division of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
The pair’s “actions harmed [Marci] and contributed to her death,” Richards wrote in separate final orders dated Tuesday and obtained by the Star-Telegram.
Eaton and Salas had requested the appeal hearings after the Department of Family and Protective Services recommended adding their names to the state’s Employee Misconduct Registry. Inclusion would bar them from employment in a facility or agency regulated by the Department of Aging and Disability Services.
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Richards agreed that Eaton and Salas should be added to the registry. Their only recourse now is to sue for judicial review in a Travis County district court.
Salas’ attorney, Daniel Sullivan of Fort Worth, said Thursday that he could not comment until he speaks with his client.
Eaton’s attorney, Bruce Pauley of Dallas, said his client is “disappointed” and will appeal.
“He did nothing that caused or contributed to Marci Garvin’s medical condition or her death as reported by the Star-Telegram,” Pauley said in an email. “Quite the opposite, he had been a long-time champion of Marci Garvin and was instrumental in getting her a job with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Eaton has spent his entire adult life helping to better the lives of physically and mentally disabled individuals.”
Marci worked part time for the Star-Telegram for about 12 years, stapling and shredding papers.
Marci, born with cerebral palsy and several other disabilities, had received services for years under a Medicaid waiver program known as Home and Community-based Services (HCS) when she died March 11, 2013, two days after an ambulance was summoned to her south Fort Worth home.
Hospital staffers had alerted authorities because of Marci’s malnourished and filthy condition— including more than 20 bedsores and feces and bugs covering her body. She died from sepsis, pneumonia, acute renal failure and severe dehydration.
Marci’s father, Mike Garvin, and her older sister, Tabby Martinjak, were indicted on charges of injury to the disabled. Because Garvin is a retired investigator for the Tarrant County district attorney, a special prosecutor was assigned to the case.
On Monday, both Garvin and Martinjak pleaded guilty to the first-degree felony. Sentencing by state District Judge Robb Catalano is set for July.
But a preliminary investigation report from Adult Protective Services — a copy of which was obtained by the Star-Telegram and detailed in the two-part series “Failing Marci” — raised questions about the care and oversight that Marci received under the HCS program.
Neither the private service providers that worked with Marci — Southern Concepts and later Rock House — nor MHMR Tarrant County, whose caseworkers were to visit Marci monthly, raised any red flags about her care.
They didn’t act even though employees knew that Marci was living under the primary care of an increasingly overwhelmed sister who was an admitted hoarder and often avoided their visits, the report indicated.
Instances of neglect
Bill Eaton was a longtime Garvin family friend. Whenever Eaton changed jobs to work at a different service provider, the Garvins followed.
Eaton served as HCS director for Southern Concepts from March 2009 to January 2013, when he left to work for Rock House. He had last seen Marci a week and a half before her death during a home assessment as part of her pending transfer to Rock House from Southern Concepts.
Salas served as Marci’s Southern Concepts care coordinator from March 2009 to March 2013. She has since left the company, also for Rock House.
According to Richards’ ruling, Eaton and Salas neglected Marci in several ways:
▪ Eaton failed to properly monitor Salas to ensure that she performed all required tasks, such as annual home assessments and visits.
▪ Salas acknowledged that she did not see Marci in 2011, 2012 or 2013. She falsified home assessments in 2011 and 2012 and had not made one for 2013.
▪ Both Eaton and Salas failed to ensure that Martinjak turned in required documentation yet still paid her to be Marci’s foster-care provider.
▪ Both failed to ensure that Marci was receiving required annual medical and dental exams and treatment for her many health issues. Marci had not seen a doctor since September 2010, nor had a required nursing assessment been done in 2011, 2012 or 2013.
▪ Both failed to ensure that Marci received “safe, humane treatment.”
“The checks and balances in the foster care system created to protect elderly and disabled citizens failed to protect [Marci],” Richards wrote in both final orders.
He stated that Eaton, Salas “and others responsible for [Marci’s] care failed to act in [Marci’s] best interest. Many professionals providing care for [Marci] presumed others were ensuring [Marci’s] safety and failed to do their essential job duties to provide [Marci] with the care she deserved.”
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655