Sonoma County has agreed to pay $600,000 to settle a lawsuit by an elderly gay man who said social workers kept him from seeing his dying partner in the hospital.
Clay Greene, 78, of Guerneville filed a lawsuit earlier this year, claiming the county's Public Guardian program discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation.
Greene accused social workers of denying him hospital visitation rights to see his partner, Harold Scull, despite signed wills, medical declarations and powers of attorney naming each other as spouses. The couple was not married nor registered as domestic partners.
The lawsuit also alleged that after Scull's death, social workers forced Greene into a nursing home and sold the couple's property, including art and heirlooms.
The county's lawyer, Gregory Spaulding, denied the discrimination claims but admitted mistakes in selling the couple's property.
"The county remains confident in its position that there was no discrimination in this case," Spaulding said, noting that the plaintiff removed the discrimination allegations from the lawsuit three weeks ago.
Under the law, officials can sell property worth $5,000 or less to cover medical expenses, but the couple's property sale brought in more than $25,000 at auction, Spaulding said. Errors in that case have led to revised policies at the Public Guardian's office, he said.
Spaulding said the county settled the case Thursday to avoid further expense.
"It just made economic sense to stop the bleeding," Spaulding said. "To end the case and avoid all expenses and costs."
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Sonoma Co. Settles Gay Discrimination Suit
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