When 88-year-old Harold Scull severely injured himself outside the Sonoma County home he shared with his partner of 20 years, Clay Greene, in April 2008, the couple’s world was turned upside down.
The county accused the 78-year-old Greene of domestic abuse, petitioned the court for conservatorship of Scull’s estate, placed the two in separate nursing facilities, terminated the lease to their home and sold off all their belongings. Scull died in August 2008 without seeing his companion the last four months of his life.
Late last week, San Francisco’s National Center for Lesbian Rights negotiated a $653,000 settlement for Greene, even though Sonoma County never conceded violating the men’s civil rights.
In a press release, NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said the county also agreed to change several policies, including requiring employees to follow protocols before seizing private property and preventing them from relocating elders against their will.
“This settlement cannot undo what Clay and Harold endured,” Kendell said, “but it ensures that what happened to them will never happen in Sonoma County again.”
“Nothing can make up for the unbearable reality that Harold died alone, without Clay by his side,” she added, “after spending the final months of his life making a photo album for Clay of their life together.”
NCLR worked on the case with Santa Rosa solo Anne Dennis and elder abuse specialists Stephen O’Neill and Margaret Flynn of Tarkington, O’Neill, Barack & Chong’s Santa Rosa office.