Clay Greene + Harold Scull: Did County Officials Separate Them Because of Elder Abuse?

The story of Clay Greene, 78, and his now-deceased partner Harold Scull, who was 89 when he died, started out as an episode of Sonoma County officials, in California, refusing to let two partners spend their last months together because they were gay, denying them hospital visitation rights and selling off their entire estate under their noses. But county officials are firing back, saying this wasn’t the blissful story we’ve been led to believe, and that the two men were separated because of domestic elder abuse.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Guerneville resident Clay Greene, 78, whose run-in with county officials began April 27, 2008 when his now deceased partner, Harold Scull, fell and injured himself at their Sebastopol home. According to Greene’s suit, the 88-year-old Scull had been chronically ill and was showing signs of dementia and reduced mental capacity at the time of his accident. As described in court papers by Greene’s attorney, Anne Dennis, Scull had been drinking, grew angry, and tried to leave the couple’s home “in a huff.” He missed the front step and fell down. When Greene tried to help him up, Scull “was combative and insisted on being left alone.”

Greene, however, called 911 and paramedics brought Scull to Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa. It would be the last time the two men would see each other. Observing bruises on Scull’s arms and face, hospital employees alerted county officials of suspected elder abuse, according to court papers, and the Public Conservator’s office became involved in the case. Scull left the hospital after three weeks, spent some time at a rehabilitation facility and then moved into Hill House in Kenwood, where he remained until his death on August 13, 2008.

[…] The county paints a different picture in a memorandum it filed with the superior court of Sonoma County this week. It alleges that when Scull was admitted to the hospital, he told Kaiser staffers that Greene had inflicted the injuries on him. “The county’s dealings with these men have noting to do with the fact they are gay or a same-sex couple. The county treats domestic violence the same, regardless of the gender, and takes domestic violence very seriously,” said Greg Spaulding, the county’s outside legal counsel. “The facts that have been reported by the other side are wrong.” The county contends that an investigation by the public guardian found that Scull required assistance with his personal and medical needs as well as his financial affairs, and that he “was afraid of” Greene and “did not want to return to the home he shared with” him.

But that’s not how NCLR’s Kate Kendall, who’s leading Greene’s lawsuit, sees it.

During that time the public conservator petitioned the courts for a temporary conservatorship of Scull’s estate, listing Greene as his roommate rather than partner of 20 years. The two men were not registered as domestic partners but had designated each other beneficiaries in their wills and filed the necessary paperwork to allow them to make medical decisions on their behalf. According to court papers, county employees went to the men’s home and in front of Greene commented that the couples’ belongings “will look great in my living room” and that “my wife will love this.”

The county eventually sold off the men’s property at auction and moved Greene into Agua Caliente Villas, an assisted living center in Sonoma, against his will, according to the lawsuit. He was kept from seeing or telephoning his partner and restricted from leaving his new residence. “Clay Greene and his partner, before Harold died, were subjected to false imprisonment and being denied access to each other,” said Kendell. “Other than a suitcase of his belongings and a photo book Harold made for him, he has nothing left of his former life.”

We can’t imagine NCLR didn’t look into these allegations before filing the suit — so we tend not to think they’re throwing good money after bad, chasing a lawsuit they’ve already filed just because they’re already in too deep. But as the case heads to a jury in July, there are some major unanswered questions here.

Meanwhile, Sonoma County is seeing its tourism brand tarnished.

[Bay Area Reporter, Press Democrat]

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  • Eric

    Even if the allegations of elder abuse are substantiated, Sonoma County had no legal right to do what it did.

  • scott ny'er

    Someone effed’ up big time, sounds like. And… they’ll probably get away with it.

    Meanwhile, Green has suffered terribly. Poor guy. Dealing with a sick, loved one who then passed and then having all your worldly possessions + memories of your loved one taken away. Really effed up.

  • Ernie

    This new information has all the earmarks of a cover story fabricated by the legal counsel to neutralize sympathy for the two partners.

  • DR (the real one, not the guy who made post #12)

    Even if there was spousal/domestic abuse, I’m still not sure the county had the right to do what they did with the property. That part disturbs me the most right now. Assuming that Adult Protective Services was needed, and the two were separated at the request of Scull, I still don’t see how the county justifies selling pretty much everything they own…

  • PADude

    Do I smell a smokescreen? Yes, and where there’s smoke…

    Even if true, it doesn’t give the county the right to steal their stuff and act the way they did.

  • Cam

    The elder abuse angle is fabricated and it’s easy to prove by one fact. Why did the county never contact police? To do sometihng as drastic as separate them and lock them away in institutions there would have to be paperwork documenting that criminal abuse had taken place. They can claim it all they want now, but if it was real, then why did the county fail to report it?

  • Cam

    Sorry I spoke too soon. Apparently the county is claiming that they did report this as an abuse case. It still sounds weird though.

  • Jaroslaw

    I’m not rushing to the defense of the county but there are supposed to be confidentiality issues when abuse is reported and stuff. Let’s get all the facts. The new info may or may not be fabricated. Don’t assume.

  • Hyhybt

    “Agua Caliente Villas”

    Now it’s the county in hot water…

  • Wade MacMorrighan

    Wait a minute! Something stinks in Sonoma County…didn’t they just make a case that these two men were NOT in a relationship, but merely “roommates” in front of a Judge? But, *now* they are saying that, yes, in fact they were a “couple”? Also, if the CO.’s allegations are correct, why did Harold spend the last months of his life piecing together a photo album for Clay? Those aren’t the actions of someone who’s an abuse victim, let alone someone who’s “afraid” of his spouse! My mom loathed her second husband and, when she finally succeeded in divorcing him, she tore up all the photos of him in them, leaving only her or me and my brother! Nor does it explain the clearly illegal actions of the CO. by selling their joint property and circumventing their legal documents preventing such behavior! After all, by selling their property, the CO. was also punishing the alleged “victim”! Hello?! How the Hel did the CO. acquire the “right” to sell Clay’s belongings when he is still living?

  • gayfamilyvalues

    Great smoking holes in the counties allegations:

    a) how can the county make allegations of “domestic abuse” if they consider their relationship to be “roommates”? to have domestic abuse means acknowledging that their relationship goes beyone two men merely cohabitating together.

    b) if they reported the incedent to the police. if there was proof of that abuse,… AND if Harold Scull was reportedly so frightened of Clay Greene, then why were no charges pressed?

    C) If Domestic abuse was NOT proven(and still is not) why was Clay Greenes belongings sold part and parcel along with Harold Sculls? Surely he was of sound mind and body and capable of managing his own financial affairs?

    D) “The county paints a different picture in a memorandum it filed with the superior court of Sonoma County THIS WEEK….”

    Really…this week you say?…Does anyone else see a problem in the fact that these allegations of abuse are the johny come lately documents in this case? Where was all this before? This is beggining to look like a hastily concocted defense for an agency that has made a grave error.

    this list could go on…

  • gayfamilyvalues

    You know…in addition I have to say…If there was a fight? Those men have been together twenties years. How is it the counties job to judge the entire character of a relationship that has lasted twenty years on the grounds of a single fight? If the allegations of Dementia are true then who can say what Harold Sculls mental state was on that day. Dementia can cause us to act in ways entirely unlike ourselves. I personally had a grand uncle with dementia. One day he went for a walk and just wandered away. He never came back. he had walked into a field and layed down there and died.

    I think there are too many things wrong with the counties account of things.

  • Kay

    Harold Scull worked for MGM studios in the 1950s and 60s—he worked with Louis B. Mayer—and, according to the complaint, Scull had “collected numerous artifacts and memorabilia from that period, many of which were displayed in his home. Greene worked in television, “working with many stars early in their careers,” and also had a large collection of memorabilia. Everything they owned together—their mementos, art, furniture, their car, family heirlooms—was sold out from under them without their consent.

    . . . the only memento Clay was left with was a photo album that his dying loved one made, alone and isolated, in the last three months of his life.


    The whole thing just stinks! What were these people thinking?!

  • Ralph

    Ok, a lot of people seem to be under the impression that “domestic abuse” only applies to married people. It does not. It applies to any people who live together. Therefore, a charge (or a mere allegation in this case) of “domestic abuse” is not a tacit acknowledgment that a romantic relationship existed. Sorry.

  • FoolMeTwice

    Wake up people. You have been duped! Clay Greene was allegedly abusing his partner Harold Scull. Clay allegedly assaulted Harold causing him to fall down the stairs. Harold required 3 weeks hospitalization due to Clay’s alleged assault. Harold DIED 3 months after the alleged assault. Harold and Clay’s possessions were auctioned off to pay for the hospitalizations that followed this alleged assault. Now Clay wants the possessions reappraised so that he can inherit more money from Harold’s estate.

    Yes, Harold and Clay named each other in wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, but they DID NOT register as domestic partners. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why? Maybe this was going to far for one of them. My best buddy has named me as sole beneficiary and go to person for emergency medical directives, but he doesn’t consider me his spouse. And just because you live with someone for 20 years doesn’t mean you love them. My mother lived with my father for 27 years and they hated each other’s guts. If my dad knocked my mom down the stairs he sure as hell wouldn’t be allowed to visit her in the hospital. If my boyfriend (we are gay and registered as domestic partners) pushed me down the stairs he wouldn’t be visiting me either, and the first thing I’d do is have my lawyer void our partnership. Harold didn’t need to do this because he was never registered in the first place.

    I challenge you to find one quote of Clay Greene saying how sad he was not to be with Harold in his final months. All I can find is Clay complaining about being put in a nursing home and about losing his stuff. The only quotes I can find with Clay directly talking about Harold is where he blames the fall on Harold. Doesn’t sound like love to me.

  • Hyhybt

    @FoolMeTwice: It’s possible, of course… doubtful, but possible. But the burden of proof needs to be on the county, and *even if the abuse accusations are true,* since they were not legally partnered, Clay’s stuff was not Harold’s and therefore the government had no right to seize it, nor to confine someone capable of living alone to a nursing home.

  • Wy

    The elder abuse charge is most likely to excuse the reprehensible conduct of the County. If you read the lawsuit the County NEVER asked for, attempted to get, or requested a judge grant conservatorship of Greene OR Scull (the allegedly abused.) They wanted no legal authority granted to make decisions on either man’s behalf. Even though I’ve not seen the actual filings that resulted in the one decision that granted them access to a single joint account and NOT their property, I’m willing to bet that the now alleged abuse was most likely never cited to get conservatorship of the estate. It really does seem the county had no interest in the persons, only the property and the bank accounts of the two gentlemen. The County up until now has argued that Greene’s forced incarceration and restriction of communication (even with his own family) was for HIS protection, not Scull’s. After Greene’s lawsuit was filed, these tidbits of information are being trickled out by the County – which also never even acknowledged a relationship between the two parties besides “friendship” until NOW.

  • FoolMeTwice

    Hyhybt, what makes you say “doubtful?” It’s Harold’s word against Clay’s. Harold had nothing to gain by blaming Clay. Clay has everything to lose, and much to gain by blaming Sonoma County. That makes Harold and Sonoma County’s version of events more believable.

  • Hyhybt

    @FoolMeTwice: *The county now claims* that Harold made such accusations, now that they’ve been publicly embarrassed (and sued.) That’s a totally different matter.

    There’s also the possible dementia to consider; such people often become paranoid and accuse those caring for them of abuse where there is none.

    Again, I’m not saying it’s impossible that there was genuine abuse, only that the information so far available is hardly convincing. Why are you so eager to believe it?

  • Baxter

    @gayfamilyvalues: I know! They totally shouldn’t send men to jail who’ve only beaten their wives once or twice. How dare they judge the entire character of a relationship on one little fight?

    I don’t know what exactly happened in this case, but the idea that the state should ignore abuse just because two people have been together for twenty years or because one of the people involved isn’t all there is ridiculous.

  • Rabidbadger

    Unfortunately for the County and their attorney, the Sonoma County District Attorney has stated that allegations of abuse were investigated and dismissed. Shortly thereafter, the County’s attorney suddenly stopped speaking to the press. The County has offered a number of conflicting stories and confusing timelines of their actions.

    Perhaps the most troubling thing is the distribution of these men’s assets. Even in the case of domestic abuse, an agency can’t merely disregard documents such as wills, medical directives and powers of attorney. If an agency feels that the execution of these documents is not in an individual’s best interest, each should be dissolved in a hearing by a judge.

  • FoolMeTwice

    Actually, Hyhybt, not just the County claims Harold made accusations of abuse. Clay Greene’s advocate Kate Kendell backs up this claim. She told the Bay Area Reporter “When the incident occurred and the ambulance arrived Harold was furious and accused Clay of pushing him because he was angry and embarrassed. He immediately recanted and the police investigated and found no abuse.”

    But wait, you might be saying, Harold recanted, the police investigated and found no abuse! Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens every day in America. Abuse victims, – children, spouses, elders – often recant when they are asked to press criminal charges when they realize their entire lives will be turned upside down. Imagine trying to decide what to say when you hear, “Sir, did your partner hit you? Do you realize he (that you have loved for the past 20 years) could go to jail if you say yes?”

    And yes, there IS dementia to consider. But the only one saying Harold suffered from such dementia that he didn’t know the difference between abuse and non-abuse is Clay. The County believed Harold was frail and in poor health, maybe not lucid enough to work out his finances, but certainly able to make his own decisions regarding what company he wanted to keep. Regardless, even if Harold imagined he was being abused, he is allowed to believe it. Hospital patients are not required to accept visitors they don’t want.

    I’m going to go back and point out your illogical statement that “Clay’s stuff was not Harold’s and therefore the government had no right to seize it.” Actually, Clay’s claim that he and Harold were more than roommates, that they were life-partners of 20 years, works against him. Either they are life-partners and own everything jointly or they are just roommates and their stuff is separate. You can’t have it both ways. In America, when you get sick and you can’t pay your hospital bills, they sell your stuff. And they also sell your spouse’s stuff. It’s a sad, sad reality, but if you don’t like it, move to Canada! When you look at it fairly, Sonoma County VALIDATED their same-sex relationship when they jointly liquidated Harold and Clay’s stuff. That’s what marriage is about: for better or for worse.

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