By Marcus Hatfield, Journal Inquirer
Published: Thursday, June 16, 2011 1:07 PM EST
ENFIELD —A probate judge has removed tobacco farmer Stephen Jarmoc as the executor of his father's estate, which has been the subject of a bitter legal battle between Jarmoc and his sister.
In his June 3 ruling, Probate Judge O. James Purnell said his decision to remove Jarmoc is based on "serious flaws in the performance of his fiduciary duties," and said that he will be required to "immediately account for his doings" as executor of the estate.
Purnell appointed former East Granby Probate Judge Paul A. Ridgeway as the executor of the estate. According to Purnell's ruling, Jarmoc must provide to Ridgeway an inventory of the estate, after which Ridgeway will produce his own accounting.
Jarmoc's sister, Laura Jarmoc, has accused her brother of fraud and self-dealing and using the estate of their father, Edwin Jarmoc, as collateral to take out millions of dollars in loans while he suffered from dementia. Edwin Jarmoc died in 2009.
Laura Jarmoc has contested the admission of her father's 2004 will, claiming that the document, which she said disproportionately favors her brother, is the "product of fraud and undue influence." In March, she sued her brother and the North Central Connecticut Probate District in Hartford Superior Court after Purnell denied her request to throw out the will.
Purnell, a probate judge in Vernon, began overseeing the case after former Enfield Probate Judge Susan Warner recused herself last summer.
Stephen Jarmoc has denied any wrongdoing in the affair and said that his father left him the gifts, which include a controlling interest in the family's tobacco business, because he has run the business for years while his sister moved to New Hampshire to open a medical practice.
In response to subpoenas Laura Jarmoc's lawyers have issued for financial records in the probate case, Stephen Jarmoc has also filed a series of motions seeking to keep those records confidential and to limit his sister to using them only in the probate matter.
"The public has no legitimate interest in that full universe of financial matters," Stephen Jarmoc's lawyer, Edward Heath, wrote. "He and his family, on the other hand, have a significant interest in not having their financial information laid bare for the review of curious neighbors."
Laura Jarmoc objected to that motion, saying it was "critical to due process" that she be allowed to use the information obtained through the probate subpoenas for her case in Superior Court.
Purnell has not yet ruled on Stephen Jarmoc's confidentiality motion, though he denied Jarmoc's November request for a gag order in the case.
Stephen Jarmoc is a former state representative who served in Enfield's 59th House District from 1992 to 2006, when he stepped down and his wife, Karen Jarmoc, was elected. Karen Jarmoc gave up the seat last year in a failed bid to unseat Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield.
In her Superior Court lawsuit, Laura Jarmoc's claimed that her brother deliberately withheld information about his financial dealings and their father's dementia to dissuade her from challenging the admission of the will.
Because of Stephen Jarmoc's "fraudulent statements," the lawsuit said, Laura Jarmoc had no reason to believe that the will was "the product of incapacity, fraud, or undue influence," and she did not initially contest the will.
Purnell ruled that the probate court did not have the jurisdiction to reverse its previous decision to admit the will but did not rule on the merits of Laura Jarmoc's claims of fraud.
In several court filings, Laura Jarmoc claims that her father signed off on a number of loans and business deals with Stephen Jarmoc despite the fact that her father stood to gain little from those deals.
Laura Jarmoc said she learned for the first time in March 2010 that a farm credit bank had placed a claim on her father's estate based on loans totaling more than $7 million which, she said, were for the "near-exclusive benefit" of her brother.
She said her brother first received notice of the bank's claim on July 30, 2009, and that he failed to timely file the inventories and appraisals he was required to file as executor of the estate.
Laura Jarmoc also claims that Edwin Jarmoc was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia "days after the 2004 will had been executed."
In his responses to his sister's probate filings, Stephen Jarmoc denied the charges of fraud and said that his sister has told conflicting stories about when she learned of her father's "purported mental health issues," noting that Laura Jarmoc is a medical doctor.
"To say that Mr. Jarmoc is shocked and hurt by his sister's slanderous and baseless allegations of wrongdoing would be an understatement," Heath wrote in a May 23 letter to the probate court.
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