Published Date Written by Gail OberLACONIA — A 99-year-old former Belvedere Street woman filed suit earlier this month claiming her grand-niece abused her power of attorney and used the woman's money for her own benefit.
Marion Chartier, who lives in an assisted living facility in Vermont, also contends that Donna Stivali and her husband Peter withdrew $179,000 in equity from the home in 2004 and 2005 without Chartier's knowledge or permission. She also contends Peter Stivali allowed an attachment of $3,585 to the house without her knowledge or consent.
She asked the court to order the Stivalis to return $268,000 to her and Belknap County Judge James O'Neill ordered a temporary attachment to the Stivalis for $300,000 each until the matter is resolved.
According to paperwork filed in Belknap County Superior Court, the Stivalis and their children initially moved into an upstairs apartment in Chartier's home. Donna Stivali assisted Chartier, who lived alone but occasionally needed assistance, by driving Chartier to doctors appointments, purchasing groceries and necessities, and "eventually, in managing" her finances.
In exchange for the assistance, Chartier charged the Stivali family $350 monthly that included utilities to live in her home with the agreement the family paid for its own groceries and personal items.
In 2003, the Stivalis had difficulty paying the rent and Chartier, in what her attorney describes as her attempt to help them, made a gift of the home to them reserving to her a rent-free life estate in the home.
Pleadings indicate that shortly thereafter the Stivalis began charging Chartier $400 in rent and $400 for heat monthly. The complaint says in 2004 a "questionable" release of life estate was filed and recorded in the Belknap County registry of Deeds on April 16, 2004.
Chartier said she never agreed to end her release of life estate, and since it was filed, the Stivalis has been taking over control of more and more of the home "forcing her into smaller and smaller living quarters."
In 2009, Chartier added Donna Stivali to her joint accounts so she could assist with her finances and paying her bills. She also said she cashed in a certificate of deposit and put the $20,703 in a passbook savings to which they both had access.
Chartier said that between January and June of 2010 Donna Stivali withdrew $14,736 for her own benefit.
On February 2, Chartier gave her nephew William Rodd her power of attorney and named Stivali as the alternate.
On December 25, 2011, Rodd died and Donna Stivali became her power of attorney and as such, said Chartier's attorney, was obligated to observe the standards of a prudent person for Chartier's benefit.
On January 6, 2012 and under the influence and direction of Stivali, Chartier removed $50,031 from one account and deposited it in an account to which both women had access.
Bank records show the majority of checks from that account were written by Donna Stivali.
Chartier also had an account into which her Social Security checks were deposited and she thought that account was being used for her day to day needs.
On January 4, 2013, pleadings say that the Stivalis took Chartier to Lakes Region General Hospital and "abandoned her in the emergency room."
After being under observation for a week, hospital staff called and told the Stivalis that Chartier didn't need hospitalization but were told the Stivalis didn't want Chartier back in the home.
Complaints say they refused to assist the hospital in finding alternative living arrangements for her and failed to fill out paperwork, including financial documents needed to help her qualify for alternative living arrangements.
William Rodd's widow immediately agreed to help Chartier and on January 18, 2013 Chartier stripped Donna Stivali of her power of attorney and granted it to Natalie Rodd.
Since January 18, Chartier has been living in an assisted living facility near Natalie Rodd in St. Johnsbury, Vt.
Chartier said the day before she was taken to LRGH, $440 was taken from her account for "heat." The day she went to LRGH, she said $400 was taken for "household" and cashed a counter check at the bank payable to cash for $7,400.
Around January 20, 2013 and after the Stivalis refused to allow Chartier back into the house, $200 was taken from the account through an ATM, leaving $98.11 from the original balance of $50,031 in January of 2012.
Peter Stivali's attorney David Osman replied by saying Chartier's petition is invalid because it was signed by her attorneys — the firm of Normandin, Cheney and O'Neil, PLLC — and not her and that the pleadingz were somewhat vague and doesn't address the long history of care provided to her by the Stivalis.
Osman said the judges ex-parte attachment effects not only Peter Stivali but his three children whose bank accounts are included in the court's attachment.
Donna Stivali's attorney Matt Lahey filed a similar objection to the court's attachments.