Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger secured $400,000 in additional investment in care and maintenance by StoneMor Inc, a company that operates several cemeteries around Georgia, to better protect and honor Georgia’s deceased loved ones. After receiving complaints about several of StoneMor’s cemeteries around the state, Secretary Raffensperger investigated and has put the 4 named cemeteries on conditional registration with heightened supervision for two years and required them to put an additional $400,000 into direct upkeep of the cemeteries. 3 additional StoneMor cemeteries were investigated but remedied relevant issues.
“I will always fight for the people of Georgia, including for their dearly departed loved ones,” said Raffensperger. “I heard the people of Georgia and have taken action to ensure that their loved ones are taken care of. My office will be monitoring StoneMor to ensure they bring their cemeteries in compliance with Georgia law.”
“We have worked together with the Secretary of State’s office closely over the last year to make sure that we address all concerns that have been brought forth,” said Lindsay Granson, StoneMor’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “We appreciate the support and partnership and look forward to continuing to serve our families in Georgia.”
Secretary Raffensperger announced a Statutory Compliance and Supervision Plan that will require 4 StoneMor cemeteries to dedicate $400,000 in additional resources to the upkeep and maintenance of the cemetery grounds and funeral plots. According to the terms of the plan, StoneMor cannot use the $400,000 in fines for operating or administrative expenses, and must dedicate the funds to care and maintenance needs. The StoneMor cemeteries must provide receipts to the Securities Division identifying how the funds are spent. If StoneMor is found to not be dedicating the funds to appropriate upkeep, the Securities Division of the Secretary of State’s office can demand the remainder of the $400,000 in proposed fines not already spent on maintenance immediately.
The 4 named cemeteries will remain in a Compliance Supervision Period resulting in increased oversight of the cemeteries.
In January 2020, Secretary Raffensperger restructured oversight of the cemeteries division to enhance the tools the office had to ensure compliance with Georgia law regarding the cemetery and preneeds industry. Oversight of Georgia’s cemeteries was moved from the Professional Licensing Division to the Securities Division within the office of the Secretary of State. The reorganization gave the Secretary of State’s office the tools necessary to investigate StoneMor cemeteries the following year.
In May 2021, after receiving complaints from family members of individuals interred in StoneMor cemeteries, the Securities Division of the Secretary of State’s office proposed a $753,000 in fines against 7 StoneMor-owned cemeteries, the largest cemeteries-related fine in the state’s history. The orders required the named cemeteries to address a list of violations identified by state investigators during their visits to the cemeteries.
Shortly after, StoneMor requested a hearing on the proposed fines, as allowed by Georgia law. The subsequent discussions between StoneMor and the Secretary of State’s office resulted in the Statutory Compliance and Supervision Plan announced today.
Investigators from the Secretary of State’s office have inspected StoneMor cemeteries 4 since the investigation was launched. As a result of discussions between the Securities Division and StoneMor, StoneMor, has ordered additional equipment that is better suited for the care and maintenance of the properties, intensified training to its employees, allocated significant additional resources to address major concerns at the locations, created a customer service line specifically for individuals to submit complaints about the cemeteries located in the Rome, Georgia area, and has dedicated resources to ensuring the complaints are responded to and remedied quickly. Individuals with complaints about the Rome-area cemeteries should call 706-381-7587.
To better improve care and maintenance at their cemeteries, StoneMor introduced a compliance reporting application for their Georgia cemeteries that will streamline the care and maintenance process.
Oaknoll Memorial Garden, Floyd Memory Garden and Sunset Hills, which are owned by StoneMor Partners, received notice this week that each of them have been hit with a $100,000 fine by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office .
According to reports, the three cemeteries in Rome “failed to keep their grounds in good condition, graves at the cemetery are being left in horrible shape, headstones markers and monuments were left broken or damaged, and roadways are in need of major repairs”.
The Secretary of State’s Office said that Stonemor Partners has 10 days from May 26th to respond to the order for arbitration.
The Proposal from the Secretary of State’s office may change if Stonemor decides to arbitrate.
“The Secretary of State’s office is proud to help ensure that the departed loved ones of the people of Georgia get the care they were promised,” said Noula Zaharis, Director of the Securities and Cemeteries Division in the Office of the Secretary of State. “No one should have to worry that the last wishes of those they care about are not being honored.
Lindsay Granson, SVP of Sales and Marketing for StoneMor,”First and foremost, our mission is to serve our families in their time of need, and we take the allegations in the proposed orders very seriously. Our company policy is not to comment on active legal matters. We will note, however, that the proposed orders are just that — a proposal to be discussed, negotiated and determined at a hearing. We will await that determination before we issue any further statement.”
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