Follow the money

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WOODSTOCK >> Several times on Thursday afternoon, Paul Kane's defense attorney, Melvin Fink, accused attorney Jodi French of "mud slinging," and going "beyond the scope" of the hearing in probate court that day.

However, French argued that her questioning was warranted, noting that she had no "horse to ride in this race." Windsor County Probate Judge Joanne Ertel agreed with French, overriding Fink's objections.

"I have had to undertake a painstaking review of financial records, which has taken time because not all records were turned in. The fiduciary (Paul Kane) did not provide any records from (Mascoma Savings Bank or Savings Bank of Walpole) ... " French said.

French explained that Kane has not turned over the funds he is accused of misappropriating, even though she has asked for those funds a number of times.

The events leading up to the complaint filed in July by the Judicial Conduct Board against Paul Kane, of Westminster, began in October 2009, when Kane moved into the Westminster home of his uncle's second wife, Catherine Tolaro, who was 82 at the time and showing signs of dementia. That same month, Tolaro executed a "Limited Power of Attorney For Finances" granting Kane and his wife the ability to obtain financial information on her behalf. One month later, Tolaro executed a will that gave 30 percent of her assets to charity and distributed the rest to six beneficiaries, one of whom was Kane. At the time, Tolaro's net worth was $767,500. Over the next six years, Tolaro's estate dwindled away, as Kane issued a pair of loans and made claims against the state for the costs of Tolaro's care.

While arguing the case on Thursday, attorneys discussed payments that were made on unsecured loans Kane made out of the estate of Tolaro to David Carrier, a coworker of Kane's. The JCB's complaint alleged Kane had loaned the money, but deposited several repayments in his own account and not back to the estate.

Fink argued there was no request made to have those payments returned to the estate, but French said she did ask Kane and insisted that he had a duty to return the money.

Before the court, French reviewed Kane's account history in an attempt to prove loan repayments were made, some that were deposited into Kane's account. Through questioning from Fink, Kane said that several of the deposits made into his own account were based on reimbursements for other payments he had made on Tolaro's behalf, such as fixing up his aunt's house before and after she died in April of 2014. French stated she did not see how this was a "benefit" to Tolaro after her death in April of 2014, and she believed that this was for Kane's "sole benefit."

Later, under questioning from Fink, Kane said he made these improvements because he promised Tolaro before her death he would take care of her and the house.

The focus of the hearing was three unsecured loans between Kane and Carrier. During questioning, Kane stated that Carrier did repay the loans, but that the funds were not turned over to the administrator of the estate.

Fink made several objections over the next 30 minutes as French tried to question Kane about loans between himself and Mark Olbrych. The questioning revealed Kane did receive seven payments from Olbrych, but Kane said his memory did not serve him well on a suggested eighth payment in December that French had reason to believe he received.

"If I told you Olbrych shared all of his records from 2001 to 2014, would that impact your answer?" French asked Kane.

Fink objected to her question to his client, because Kane should not be asked to respond to "hearsay."

Later Kane testified that his previous attorney, Chris Moore of Bellows Falls, who was also the executor of the estate of Tolaro, was aware that Kane loaned money from the account to Carrier and Olbrych.

Other matters became unclear, literally, as certain checks were deemed "illegible," as it was hard to determine who signed the checks, when they were signed and what the deposit amounts were.

Given Tolaro was in care because of her dementia, Fink asked Kane if two "outstanding" loans were made during Tolaro's lifetime and if they were made with her knowledge and consent. Kane responded "She said 'yes,' she did know."

The entire discussion lasted about two-and-a-half hours, but no decisions were made. At 12:30 p.m. Ertel called the hearing to an end and said she would set a new date to reconvene once she hears from French and Fink.

Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275


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