Lawsuit ignites firestorm in gay community against Sonoma County
In a lawsuit that has sparked a firestorm within the gay community, a Guerneville man claims that Sonoma County officials prevented him from being with his dying partner of 25 years, forced him into a nursing home and then sold all of the couple’s possessions.
The multi-million dollar suit alleges that Clay Greene, 78, was barred from visiting Harold Scull, 88, as he lay in a Santa Rosa hospital bed in 2008, and that Greene was eventually placed in a Sonoma Valley care facility against his will.
A lawyer for Sonoma County denied the allegations, saying the two men were kept apart as part of a domestic violence case.
Greg Spaulding, who represents past and present county employees named in the lawsuit, said Scull was hospitalized after he was attacked by Greene and their belongings were sold to cover expenses for their care.
The lawsuit contends that after Scull died, Sonoma County Public Guardian officials auctioned the belongings for the pair’s Sebastopol home and even gave away their cats without Greene’s consent.
“They treated Clay like a roommate and pushed him aside,” said his lawyer, Anne Dennis. “Quite frankly, they were going after Harold’s money.”
The case is now being championed as an abuse of individual and gay rights. Supporters of Greene claim it happened in part because county officials refused to recognize the same-sex relationship of the couple, despite wills, powers of attorney and medical declarations naming each as the other’s spouse.
“When the facts come out, the story that’s being thrown out will be found inaccurate in a number of respects,” Spaulding said. “The case came to the public guardian when Scull reported he had been assaulted by Clay Greene. ... This is not about gay rights. It’s about domestic violence,” Spaulding said.
Dennis denies any domestic violence occurred between the two men. The lawsuit states that Scull was hospitalized after a fall at his home.
“It’s the county’s attempt to deflect the real issues of the case,” said Amy Todd-Gher, an attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco.
Court documents filed by Spaulding assert that: “The records show that on April 27, 2008, Skull was admitted to Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa as a result of domestic violence-related injuries which Scull reported were inflicted by Greene.”
In an interview Tuesday at his Guerneville apartment, Greene said his partner fell on some steps and hit his head. He said it wasn’t domestic violence and he called an ambulance for help.
Greene said that after he was denied visits with Scull, he was forced by the county’s appointed guardian into a Sonoma Valley nursing home and wouldn’t let him leave.
The county’s position is that Greene was unable to take care of himself and so placed him in the nursing home. The county denies that he was kept against his will.
Scull died about a month later, In August, 2008. The county then hired an auction company to sell of their belongings. The reason for the sale remains in dispute.
“They stole my furniture, put me in a retirement home and told me to shut up,” Greene said.
The lawsuit has swept Internet sites over the past week after it was posted by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a group that is assisting Greene.
Outrage spilled onto a Facebook page advocating justice for the couple. Organizers urged people to write legislators and news sources. Other vented about the handling by Sonoma County officials or called for a boycott of all local businesses.
The case is set for trial July 16 before judge Robert Boyd.
I'm suspicious of the domestic violence allegations, especially since Harold isn't around to confirm. If these people were willing to kick Clay out of his own home and dump him in a nursing home against his will, they would probably be willing to make that story up. The story doesn't mention anything about police, either, and I would think there would be some involvement, even to say that Harold refused to press charges or that they questioned Clay.