A woman whose campaign to raise money for her son's liver transplants drew support from President Reagan says the dismissal of a fine for improperly using the donations has cleared her name.
But a hearing officer's report says legal challenges remain open to Maria DeSillers' use of the donated money."The decision means I have not done anything wrong," DeSillers said this week after the civil fine was dismissed.
Florida's secretary of state had charged DeSillers in an administrative complaint with using donations for personal expenses and failing to register her 7-year-old son Ronnie's fund as a charity.
But Administrative Hearing Officer Donald Alexander on Tuesday dropped the $1,000 fine, ruling the money was exempt from the state's charity law because the money remaining in Ronnie's accounts became part of his estate when he died April 29, 1987, while awaiting a fourth liver transplant.
Alexander emphasized he was not ruling on whether DeSillers received or used the money legitimately, but only whether she was required to register as a charity. He noted other court remedies are available for those challenging her use of the money.
The Miami woman is being sued by Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, which is seeking $262,000 in unpaid hospital bills. She contends she was not legally bound to pay the bill and that her son received inadequate medical care.
DeSillers also faces a criminal investigation by the Dade County state attorney's office over her use of the donated money. No charges have been filed in that case.
A Dade County judge froze Ronnie's estate three months ago and appointed an attorney to oversee the remaining money in the child's accounts.
Judge Francis J. Christie took the action after state investigators reported DeSillers withdrew at least $47,000 in donations to buy jewelry, clothing and furniture and spent $270,624 without a judge's permission or authority.
DeSillers dismissed questions about jewelry she bought with donated money, saying funds collected for Ronnie and funds collected for the Ronnie DeSillers Foundation, which paid her a salary, were different.