Attorney facing disciplinary board
A long-time Ironton attorney accused of ethical violations is expected to answer to the complaints against her at a formal hearing in November.
Filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio on April 4, the 29-page complaint against Carol Jean Hampton outlines nine separate allegations from former clients and others who say they were taken advantage of by the attorney.
Hampton, who has been an attorney for more than 40 years, denied the allegations of misconduct in a 35-page response filed April 29.
The disciplinary hearing is scheduled Nov. 6 and 7 in Columbus. Columbus attorney Charles Kettlewell is representing Hampton.
The evidentiary hearing will be in front of a panel of three disciplinary counsel members. Once the hearing is concluded, the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline will decided if there was misconduct and submit their findings to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has the final say on whether an attorney will face sanctions for misconduct.
Multiple calls to Hampton’s office and her personal phonebook listing for comment rang continuously with no answer or a voicemail option. A call to Kettlewell was not returned by presstime.
In her written response to the complaints against her, Hampton wrote, “I have always been a good and faithful servant to my clients and in no way am guilty of any charges alleged herein. I have practiced for 43 years and have always placed my clients first and have never compromised a client for my personal gain.”
The Lawrence County residents named in the nine complaints see things differently, including a former Ironton Police Department dispatcher who left Hampton in charge of her retirement funds before being sent to prison on drug trafficking charges.
According to the complaint, Tina White knew Hampton and her son, Chris Destocki, and considered them like family. When White was arrested and charged with aggravated trafficking and complicity to aggravated trafficking in September 2010, the complaint alleges White and her dog stayed with Destocki through the duration of the trial and no formal arrangements were made regarding payment for room and board.
Before entering a guilty plea to the charges in January 2011, the complaint states White withdrew $77,000 from her Ohio Public Employees Retirement System account, about $70,000 of which was received in the form of check. That money was deposited into Hampton’s personal savings account, the complaint said.
The complaint also stated White authorized Destocki to spend $12,000 to $15,000 and loaned Hampton more than $16,000.
Before turning herself in at the county jail on Jan. 24, 2011, the complaint stated Destocki told White “it would be a good idea” to sign general and health care power of attorney agreements, which she did.
White also made arrangements for Hampton and Destocki to care for her dog while she was in prison and safeguard the remainder of money, about $40,000, and to pay for the care of her dog and provide her with necessities in prison. The complaint also alleged Hampton said she would file for a judicial release on White’s behalf.
In the spring of 2011, the complaint alleged White was told by Destocki that her funds were “all gone.” White also learned that Hampton had not filed for a judicial release.
According to Hampton, she wanted to be certain if a judicial release would be entertained before actually filing the document so White wouldn’t lose her ability to be approved for release as soon as possible.
Thereafter, the complaint stated, White hired attorney J.T. Holt to file for her judicial release and help her get her money back.
On Nov. 29, 2011, Holt met with Hampton to discuss White’s money. Hampton alleged in her response that she was not aware of the money except for the more than $16,000 White had loaned her. Hampton also said she requested White be present at the meeting but Holt refused.
At a meeting in January, the complaint alleged Hampton gave Holt a handwritten list of charges for the expenditure of White’s money, among which included $11,200 in lost rent on a property that Destocki owned because White’s dog was boarded there, $7,078 for boarding the dog for 363 days at $20 per day and more than $5,000 for supplying White with food for 133 days at $40 per day.
White claimed she was never made aware of these charges nor did Hampton discuss them prior to White’s incarceration.
Hampton disagreed, saying in her response that White had authorized Destocki to pay the utilities at the resident where her dog was housed, as well as other expenses and money on her prison account.
According to the complaint, White agreed to accept $41,000 as restitution, which included the $16,000 loan to Hampton.
At the time the complaint was filed, White had been compensated $25,000 of the $41,000 — $16,250 from Hampton and $8,750 from Hampton’s son.
White said this week, she hasn’t received anymore money.
“I wasn’t asking for anything more than what was mine,” White said.
White also said she was surprised to learn of the complaints from other former clients.
“I hope the legal process plays out,” White said. “I just want what’s mine. That was my retirement money. And I had counted on it being there.”
Other counts in the complaint involve former clients of Hampton who hired the woman to handle their child support, probate, social security or bankruptcy cases, as well as someone who claimed Hampton tried to take her home as collateral. The complainants are Rebecca Jenkins, Shari Hunter, Dorothy Perry, Elizabeth Royal, Shirley Mae Lykins, Bobby Allen and Gloria Jean Jeffers, Bobby and Amy Murrell and Mylinda Malone.
Three bankruptcy cases mentioned in the complaint alleged Hampton either failed to show up to scheduled Meeting of Creditors hearings or failed to bring proper documentation, resulting in the hearings being continued.
In the case of the Jeffers family, they hired Hampton in April 2011 to represent them in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
The complaint alleged the Jeffers made it known to Hampton that they wanted to keep possession of their Ford truck with a reaffirmation agreement, which is an agreement made between a creditor and the debtor that waives discharge of a debt that would otherwise be discharged in the pending bankruptcy proceeding.
In her response, Hampton alleged she told the Jeffers the court and Ford Motor Credit must approve that.
According to the complaint, Hampton filed a bankruptcy petition for the Jeffers in August 2011, and in October, Ford Motor Credit sent Hampton a reaffirmation agreement for the Jeffers to sign. The complaint also stated the attorney for Ford made it clear that the paperwork was needed to be on file before the bankruptcy charge in order for the Jeffers to keep their truck.
Hampton alleged she completed the agreement and returned it to the attorney, however the Jeffers’ complaint stated the Ford attorney tried to contact Hampton several times between November and December 2011, with no response.
A Meeting of Creditors was scheduled for Oct. 18, 2011, but was continued until Dec. 13 because Hampton did not have copies of the Jeffers’ home or vehicle titles and she failed to advised the Jeffers to bring them, the complaint alleged.
Hampton denied failing to notify the Jeffers of the proper documentation.
At the December hearing, Hampton did not show up, the complaint said, and another attorney filled in. Hampton said she had a scheduling conflict that day.
The Jeffers’ debts were discharged in February, but the affirmation agreement was not filed, the complaint stated, and Ford repossessed the truck even though the Jeffers were up-to-date on payments.
The complaint also alleged Hampton told the Jeffers the reaffirmation agreement did not have to be on file and the truck would be returned. The truck was not returned and later sold at auction.
Hampton alleged she did submit the reaffirmation agreement to Ford Motor Credit and said she told the Jeffers she would see if the truck could be returned. Hampton said she never promised the truck could be returned.
The Jeffers case, as well as two other bankruptcy cases mentioned in the complaint, caught the eye of Monica V. Kindt, assistant U.S. trustee at the Office of the United States Trustee. Kindt sent a letter to Hampton regarding the cases in January 2012, requesting a written response. On Feb. 1, 2012, Kindt filed a motion to determine excessiveness of fees after not getting a response from Hampton.
Hampton claimed she was unable to send a timely response because her husband had undergone emergency pacemaker placement. She said she left a voicemail for Kindt.
In two cases Hampton was ordered to refund attorney fees. In the other case Hampton’s attorney fee was limited to the partial payment made by her client.
The view the complaint in its entirety, go to http://tinyurl.com/pbld5rz.
To read Hampton’s response, go here: http://tinyurl.com/no7pg4l