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County of Sonoma

For Immediate Release: July 22, 2010

Sonoma County Lawsuit Resolved: Clay Greene, Harold Scull Settlement Announced

Summary
$300,000 to Plaintiffs Attorneys, $300,000 Payment to Greene, Scull

Santa Rosa, California (July 22, 2010) - A case of reported domestic violence involving two elderly Sonoma County gay men that led to a lawsuit claiming discrimination by the Public Guardian’s office which assisted them was settled today when the County agreed to pay $300,000 for property that belonged to the men which was sold for less than its full alleged value at auction.

This is a case about the County doing the right thing and stepping in to assist an individual, Harold Scull, who made claims of domestic abuse against Clay Greene, said attorney Greg Spaulding, representing the County in the settlement. It is everyone’s right—no matter what their sexual orientation—to have a relationship that is not abusive.

The County of Sonoma, Clay Greene and the Executor of the Estate of Harold Scull reached a mutual agreement in the recent court matter of Greene et al. vs. County of Sonoma (Sonoma County Superior Court Case SPR-81815). Trial was scheduled to begin on July 27, 2010.

This settlement, in which the County agreed to pay $300,000 for attorney fees, $275,000 to Clay Greene and $25,000 to the estate of Harold Scull for allegedly undervalued sold property, allows the County to avoid costs associated with a lengthy trial. The County must manage taxpayer money prudently. The attorney’s fees and costs for both sides in taking the matter to trial, which was estimated to last between four and six weeks, would have exceeded $1 million.

The County acknowledged that some administrative errors occurred in the handling and disposition of the plaintiffs’ property which led to improvements in Public Guardian policies with respect to procedures for property disposition and case management. The County remains confident in its position that there was no discrimination in this case.

The County became involved in April 2008 after Mr. Scull, 88, claimed he had been physically abused by Mr. Greene, 77.

Spaulding said there are a number of facts about the case that can’t be disclosed because of privacy issues of both Greene and Scull. He also referenced a letter he received from the attorneys for Mr. Greene and Mr. Scull, objecting to the County’s disclosure of such confidential information. However, Spaulding said a great deal of misinformation has been published that mischaracterized the case.

The public should know that the County has the moral and legal obligation to step in to help victims of domestic violence as well as to intercede when a person’s needs are greater than can be managed safely at the time. he said.

Because of the allegations of domestic abuse, both men were placed in separate homes as they were no longer able to adequately care for themselves. Contrary to online assertions, the two men saw each other several times and spoke almost daily, according to Spaulding.

This settlement removes the uncertainty and costs of trial, but also demonstrates that the Public Guardian’s office acted in good faith to protect an elderly person who complained of domestic violence. It also highlights, in the absence of gay marriage rights, the benefits to couples to register as domestic partners Spaulding said.

More information about the case and resources is available on the Public Guardian’s website at www.sonoma-county.org/human/PublicGuardian/.

Contact Information

Contact:
Gregory G. Spaulding
Email:
Phone:
(707) 524-1900 Work

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About the County of Sonoma

The County of Sonoma is comprised of 26 departments and agencies that provide a full range of services to the community. It encompasses over 1,600 square miles and is home to more than 475,000 residents. Sonoma County government has a history of providing excellent and responsive public service while operating under sound fiscal principles.

Located less than one hour north of San Francisco, Sonoma County combines in one location the beautiful Pacific coastline, award-winning wineries, majestic redwoods, historic towns, fine dining, and a wide variety of entertainment and cultural activities.