State regulators negotiating a deal with unlicensed senior home

By: - August 23, 2021 3:10 pm

One year after state officials told the owner of an unlicensed care facility to relocate her elderly residents for their own safety, the home continues to do business on Des Moines’ southwest side. (Photo by Clark Kauffman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

State regulators are negotiating a settlement agreement with the owner of an unlicensed home for the elderly that’s operating in southwest Des Moines.

The facility, located in a single-family residential home just off Park Avenue, has been admitting tenants since 2017, with the residents paying up to $9,500 per month, state records show.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals and the City of Des Moines have alleged in court that the Sutton Senior Home and its owner, Anne Porter of Ankeny, are running an illegal, unlicensed care facility out of the house, which is located at 3219 SW 39th St.

They allege DIA inspectors visited the house last fall, reviewed the level of care needed by the six people then living in the house, and concluded it was functioning as either a residential care facility or an assisted living program, both of which require state licensure or certification.

DIA alleges Porter is circumventing state laws requiring licensure and inspection of care facilities by using one corporate entity to provide housing, as a landlord would, and another company that she owns, A-Plus Home Care Services, to provide health care for residents.

Responding to those allegations, Porter’s attorneys have stated in court filings that by delivering housing and health care through two “separate and distinct legal entities,” Porter need not be licensed.

Porter, who is a registered nurse, is merely a “residential landlord in the business of leasing rooms to tenants,” according to filings by her attorneys. They acknowledge that the residents of the home are all elderly individuals “who need varying amounts” of care.

State officials took Porter to court, but those proceedings stalled when it was determined that administrative procedures in the case had yet to completed. A hearing before an administrative law judge was scheduled for last week, but the two sides agreed to a 90-day delay while they pursued settlement negotiations.

The administrative hearing is now scheduled for late November.

Porter has declined to comment on the case. In 2010, the Iowa Board of Nursing suspended Porter’s nursing license after alleging she was impaired while working at a medical clinic. The board alleged that Porter had arrived at work smelling of an alcoholic beverage, with slurred speech and an altered gait, and had difficulty finishing thoughts and sentences. In 2012, the Board of Nursing reinstated Porter’s license, which is currently in good standing.

In March of this year, Porter was cited for having an open container of alcohol in the car she was driving. She pleaded guilty and was fined $260. Court records indicate the citation was issued at 1:15 p.m. on March 2, in Grimes.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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