Jones named in guardianship dispute

State superintendent’s candidate Jana Jones has been named in a civil case over the guardianship of her husband’s elderly parents.

In the civil complaint, one of Jana Jones’ brothers-in-law says the candidate and her husband received a loan from Ross V. Jones and Lorraina R. Jones and convinced the couple to write off the debt. Jana Jones says no debt is outstanding — and she provided a 2013 document, signed by her in-laws, in which they say they have willingly made many gifts of money to their children.

Jana Jones Headshot 2
Jana Jones

The guardianship case was initially filed on July 23, but the loan question surfaced in a document filed on Oct. 16. Jana Jones says the claim was filed in an attempt to gain “notoriety.” Attorneys for the family say the filing was politically motivated; Al Barrus, an attorney for Ross V. and Lorraina Jones, called the filing a “smear campaign.”

The case will be heard in a Cassia County magistrate court on Nov. 7 — three days after Jones, a Democrat, and Republican Sherri Ybarra vie for the open state superintendent’s post.

Until then, the civil case amounts to claims and counterclaims.

In the Oct. 16 document, Michael Von Jones of Twin Falls says his parents made a $150,000 loan to Jana Jones and her husband, Ross J. Jones.

Some years later, Jana and Ross J. Jones had the means to repay the loan, Michael Jones says in his filing. But instead, he said, they “unduly influenced and prevailed upon” Ross V. and Lorraina Jones to forgive the debt.

Jana Jones says her husband received the loan from his parents for his business, and his parents were granted a lien on Jana and Ross J. Jones’ home. The home deed was turned back over to Jana and Ross J. Jones in October 2010. Jana Jones says she was not involved in the loan — but said it was for far less than $150,000.

Al Barrus, an attorney for Ross V. and Lorraina Jones, says he learned of the Oct. 16 claim on Wednesday, and discussed it with his clients later that day. He has prepared an affidavit that says his clients are not owed any money.

“They were adamant that (Ross J. Jones) does not owe them any money whatsoever,” Barrus said Thursday.

The crux of the July 23 filing centers on custodianship.

Michael Jones says his parents need a guardian, and a conservator to oversee their material assets. A doctor has examined the parents and found them to be capable of living independently, said Jeffrey Rolig, Michael Jones’ attorney. Rolig wants to get a second opinion on their condition — a motion opposed not only by Ross V. and Lorraina Jones, and by Michael Jones’ siblings.

The parents and Michael Jones’ siblings oppose the motion for guardianship, said John Ohman, an attorney who has represented Jana and Ross J. Jones for 30 years. Ohman couches the dispute as one pitting Michael Jones against his five brothers.

“Jana has no involvement in the guardianship or conservatorship at all,” Ohman said.

Documents about the custodianship case are sealed. Idaho Education News went to the Cassia County courthouse Tuesday in an attempt to examine and make copies of the case file. Deputy Magistrate Court Clerk Robin Carpenter denied Idaho Education News’ request. When asked to produce an order stating the case was sealed, Carpenter said such an order does not exist.

Idaho Education News filed a public records request Tuesday to obtain the documents.

But Ohman and Barrus mince no words about the case. Ohman calls it a “mean-spirited” attempt at political sabotage.

Barrus is also sympathetic toward his clients. “This is just really tearing them apart. … It’s turned into a witch hunt against Jana Jones and their campaign.”

Jana Jones said she was “disgusted” that her in-laws have been pulled into this dispute. Ross V. and Lorraina Jones have contributed $1,500 to Jones’ campaign, including a $1,000 contribution on Oct. 18.

“They are very supportive of me and they always have been,” she said Thursday.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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