The Story of Clay and Harold
[Post Updated 4/20/10 9:15 am PDT with photo of Clay and Harold and excerpt from the complaint]
Clay Greene and his partner of more than 20 years, Harold Scull, lived together in Sebastopol, California in the idyllic wine country of Sonoma Valley. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health for his age.
One evening in April 2008, Harold fell down the front steps of their home. Clay called an ambulance, and Harold was taken to the hospital.
Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care. Tragically, Sonoma County and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital.
There, then, the men’s nightmare began.
While Harold was hospitalized, Sonoma County Deputy Public Guardians went to the men’s home, took photographs, and commented on the desirability and quality of the furnishings, artwork, and collectibles that the men had collected over their lifetimes.
Ignoring Clay entirely, the County petitioned the Court for conservatorship of Harold’s estate. Outrageously referring to Clay only as a “roommate” in court filings, and failing to disclose their true relationship of close to 25 years, the County continued to treat Harold as if he had no family. Sonoma County sought immediate temporary authority to revoke Clay’s powers of attorney, to act without further notice, and to liquidate an investment account to pay for Harold’s care. Then, despite being granted only limited powers, the County hastily arranged for the sale of the men’s personal property, cleaned out their home, terminated their lease, confiscated their truck, and eventually disposed of all of the men’s worldly possessions, including family heirlooms, at a fraction of their value and without any proper inventory or determination of whose property was being sold.
Harold had worked at MGM Studios in the ’50s and ’60s and had an extensive collection of movie memorabilia. Clay was an artist and businessman with an extensive collection of paintings, and owned a collection of one-of-a-kind Mexican religious art. The men’s two cats were taken from their home, have never been found, and are feared dead.
Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from their home and confined him to a nursing home against his will—a different placement from his partner. Clay was kept from seeing Harold during this time, and his telephone calls to Harold were limited. Three months after Harold fell, he died, without being able to see Clay again.
“Because of the county’s actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years,” said Clay’s attorney Anne Dennis. “Compounding this horrific tragedy, Clay has literally nothing left of the home he had shared with Harold or the life he was living up until the day that Harold fell. The only memento Clay has is a photo album that Harold painstakingly put together for Clay during the last three months of his life.”
Clay is now suing Sonoma County with the assistance of a court-appointed attorney and the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights. The case goes to trial on July 16, 2010 in Sonoma County Superior Court.
ADD: From the complaint:
On or about August, 2008, Defendants MICHAEL BREWSTER and KAREN STAGG-HOURIGAN, as employees of the COUNTY acting in their official capacities… did disparage and demean Plaintiff GREENE in his presence and in the presence of others, making and/or ratifying derogatory references to Plaintiff GREENE’s sexual orientation and age, stating “you know how those ‘gay boys’ are,” and rolling their eyes and smirking. On or about the same time, Defendant BREWSTER as an employee of the COUNTY acting in his official capacity as Deputy Public Guardian stated verbally in the presence of Plaintiff and others that Plaintiff GREENE’s and [Harold Scull]’s landlord “didn’t want queers in his house.” After Decedent’s death, Defendants BREWSTER and STAGG-HOURIGAN further expressed displeasure at dealing with expressions of grief by a gay man who had lost his long-time partner.
…On or about June or July 2008 Defendants… did forcibly remove Plaintiffs’ cats “Sassy” and “Tiger” from Plaintiff and Decedent’s residence…taking possession of the animals without GREENE’s consent and over his objections and entreaties.
And to prove Chainsaw’s theory:
On or about June and July 2008, Defendants…and their agents, did Plaintiff GREENE’s and Decedent SCULL’s residence for the purpose of taking possession of and identifying the personal property. Plaintiff is informed and believes that said employees made comments regarding the quality and desirability of [their] property, saying “this would look nice in my living room” and “my wife will love this.”
No amount of money will ever bring back Harold or the cats, or restore the material belongings and basic dignity stripped from Clay. But when the taxpayers of Sonoma County have to pay a shitload of money because of the wrongdoing of county employees, I hope they recognize that this cruel indignity directed towards Clay or any other human being is unacceptable and that fundamental civil rights should not be up for popular vote.