California‘s Sonoma County has agreed to pay $600,000 to settle a lawsuit by an elderly gay man who claimed he was separated from his dying partner, accused of abuse, and left penniless when county officials auctioned the contents of their home.
Clay Greene, 78, of Guerneville, CA, filed the lawsuit earlier this year, claiming the county’s Public Guardian program discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation.
It began in 2008, when Greene’s partner of 25 years, Harold Scull, 88, was injured after falling down the front steps of the couple’s home and was taken to a local hospital.
Greene said that when Scull was in the hospital, Sonoma County officials denied visitation for the couple, contending they were mere “roommates,” despite signed wills, medical declarations and powers of attorney.
Three months later, Scull died alone and Greene was left with nothing.
The lawsuit also alleged that after Scull’s death, social workers forced Greene into a nursing home and sold the couple’s property, including art and heirlooms. The county’s lawyer, Gregory Spaulding, denied the discrimination claims but admitted mistakes in selling the couple’s property.
With his share of the money, which amounts to about $350,000 including an additional $50,000 from a Glen Ellen nursing home named in the suit, Greene will be able to live out his retirement in comfort.
“He’s very pleased,” said Greene’s attorney, Anne Dennis of Santa Rosa, who will receive half of the county settlement. “He thought he’d be dead before the county ever gave him money. And he’s relieved he doesn’t have to go to trial.”
In settling the suit, Greene agreed to drop allegations that county officials actions were the result of discrimination.
“What Clay and Harold lost can never be replaced, but this settlement brings a measure of justice to their story,” said Amy Todd-Gher, senior staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented Greene in conjunction with Davis.