Ailing Congressman names chief of staff as guardian

Retiring U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, battling complications from Parkinson’s disease, has agreed to make his chief of staff his personal guardian and let a bank handle his financial affairs.

The 54-year-old Democrat’s brothers had sought permanent guardianship after being named temporary guardians in April, but they also agreed to the arrangement approved Friday by a judge, his lawyer Arthur Winstein said.

Evans has been unable to return to the House floor for nearly four months because of Parkinson’s, a progressive neurological disease marked by rigid movement, tremors and problems with speech and balance. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1995.

Winstein said chief of staff Dennis King and American Bank of Rock Island are better able to assist with the congressman’s affairs than his brothers, one of whom lives in another state.

“The family is glad this matter has resolved itself amicably,” Winstein said, reading from a joint statement issued by Evans and his brothers.

The 12-term congressman and his brothers declined further comment after the hearing.

Evans won the Democratic primary in his western Illinois district but decided to retire at the end of his term. Longtime aide Phil Hare was chosen by party officials to replace him on the November ballot, where he will face Republican nominee Andrea Zinga.

The judge closed Friday’s hearing at the request of attorney John McGehee, appointed to represent Evans’ interest in the case.

The Associated Press, The (Moline) Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus objected to closing the hearing, and were filing a petition that asks Judge Alan Blackwood to reconsider his ruling and release a transcript and all other available materials to the public. A hearing on the petition was scheduled for Thursday.

Winstein said the hearing was closed as a “courtesy to the congressman.” John Telleen, representing Evans’ brothers, said medical issues are personal and “do not need to be spread around the press.”

Don Craven, an attorney for the news organizations, said guardianship hearings can be closed by law but require “good cause” that was not presented in court before the judge ruled.

“Whether we like it or not, public officials have a different expectation of privacy,” Craven said. “And what we have here is a congressman who may not be capable of handling his own affairs but remaining a member of Congress.”

© 2006 The Associated Press