Friday, July 23, 2010

Sonoma County Defendants to Pay Clay Greene

Sonoma County Defendants to Pay Clay Greene over $650,000 to Settle Case in Which County Forcefully Separated Greene from his Partner of 20 Years

From NCLR's website (

(San Francisco, CA, July 23, 2010) —Late yesterday evening, Clay Greene and the estate of Harold Scull, Greene's deceased partner of 20 years, reached a settlement resolving their lawsuit against the County of Sonoma (“County”) and other defendants.

Greene and Scull’s estate will receive well over a half a million dollars—a total of $653,000—to compensate for the damages the couple suffered due to the County’s discriminatory and unlawful conduct. The County has agreed to pay $600,000, with a smaller payment by defendant Agua Caliente Villa of $53,000.

What Clay and Harold lost can never be replaced, but this settlement brings a measure of justice to their story," said Amy Todd-Gher, Senior Staff Attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented Greene with The Law Office of Anne M. Dennis and Stephen O'Neill and Margaret Flynn of Tarkington, O'Neill, Barrack & Chong. "This victory sends an unmistakable message that all elders must be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation, and that those who mistreat elders must be held accountable. Even as we celebrate this victory, however, we are deeply troubled that the County of Sonoma continues to refuse to take responsibility for their egregious misconduct and violations of the law in this case. We urge every citizen of Sonoma County to demand more oversight of the Public Guardian’s office. They need to be watched."

Greene and Scull lived together for 20 years and had executed both mutual powers of attorney for medical and financial decisions and wills naming each other as beneficiaries. In April 2008, County employees separated the couple after Scull fell outside their shared home. In the next three months, County officials ignored the couple’s legal documentation, unlawfully auctioned their possessions, terminated their lease, and forced Greene into an assisted living facility against his will. The County did not consult Greene in Scull's medical care and prevented the two from seeing one another. In August, 2008, before the partners could be reunited, Scull passed away after completing a photo album of the couple’s life for Greene.

In August, 2009, Greene and the representative of Scull’s estate, the couple’s longtime friend Janette Biggerstaff, filed a lawsuit alleging elder abuse, elder financial abuse, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and other claims.

In addition to agreeing to pay a substantial sum, as a result of the lawsuit, the County has changed or modified a number of important policies in its Public Guardian’s Office, including requiring County employees to follow protocols before seizing private property, preventing County employees from relocating elders or others against their will, and prohibiting County employees from backdating information in their guardianship database.

“This settlement will allow Mr. Greene to finally have the quiet retirement he deserves,” said Anne Dennis, one of Greene’s attorneys. “Although nothing can undo the harm to these gentlemen, we believe the changes made because of the lawsuit will improve services to elders and other individuals who need the assistance of the Sonoma County Public Guardian’s Office.”

Plaintiff Jannette Biggerstaff , the executor of Scull's estate and a longtime friend of the couple, added: "There is no possible justification for what happened to my friends Harold and Clay, and I still feel outraged and heartbroken that they suffered such a terrible tragedy, which was made worse by the county spreading such terrible lies about Clay," she said. "But I am pleased that their rights have been vindicated, and I'm hopeful that their story will help to prevent this from happening to other vulnerable people."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

LGBT Pride on the Fourth – Sonoma Style

As LGBT* people, we often refer to other LGBT people as “our community;” a cozy notion that enables us to stand our ground and apply the safety-in-numbers line of defense. For those of us who are community elders (who knew LGBT people got old?), we see a continuum of life that tells a history of changes, while acknowledging that we’re still not considered first class citizens. Our generation has proven ourselves to be resilient and adaptable. That doesn’t mean we don’t all carry our own wounds; but it does mean that we have, and continue to have, productive, creative, lives.

Of course we all play our many and various roles in the larger communities of our towns and cities. And at no time of year is community more prominent than on the 4th of July. Known for its scrubbed, clean images, this iconic holiday promotes the American story in shades of red, white and blue.

This past 4th holiday, in the City of Sonoma, several members of the Spectrum group, LGBT Seniors Getting Together in Sonoma, decided to march in the local parade. A big decision, really. The Sonoma parade, on the fourth, is a funky affair that travels around the 175 year-old Plaza to the cheers of the many citizens lining the streets. We were in a purple pick-up truck, with Pride flags flying; Gary was driving, Sally and Joan sat on the tail gate, legs swinging, as Buz and Art walked (often running) along side the truck, handing out purple and green beads.

It was a moment when we moved from “our community” to the larger community. As Buz said, we were “stepping up and stepping out.” A doctor came over to us to say she’d like to refer her LGBT patients to our group; a teenage girl asked if she could carry one of our signs because she wanted to support us. There were waves, cheers, and thumbs up. There were also, I have to admit, blank stares and disinterest; but no overly ripe fruit projectiles.

Having everyone in town looking at you, just as you’re shouting, I’m gay!, can make a guy wish he’d stayed home, arranging flowers. We all had our version of dread and sudden thoughts of retreat; however, for our small group, it was cleansing that left us feeling proud and shame-free.

*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender.

Gary Shepard (pictured above) is Spectrum’s Senior Outreach Coordinator in Sonoma County. You can reach him at or at 707-583-2330 (message line).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Prop 8 Love Stories

Life, Love and Discrimination...

Actors age 10 to 17 years old interviewed 8 couples (3 mixed- and 5 same-gender) on LIFE, LOVE, and DISCRIMINATION. Now watch these young actors portray the couples (and families) word for word (with innovative, gender-blind casting!) in the most potent, moving, hilarious theatre you’ve seen! San Francisco’s own Phyllis Lyon is one of the interviewees.

Tickets can be purchased by phone at 345-7575 or online at

Find out more at

Sunday, July 11, 8pm

NorthSide Theater
Fort Mason Center, Bldg D, 3rd Floor
San Francisco

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tea Dance with NCLR & Spectrum LGBT Center

Spectrum LGBT Center and NCLR are teaming up to bring our mutual North Bay friends together for a fun afternoon on the Bay. 

Enjoy spectacular views, catch up with friends old and new, dance the afternoon away, and hear from Kate Kendell and Spectrum Executive Director Paula Pilecki about what NCLR and Spectrum have in store for the rest of the year.
Sunday, August 22, 2010 - 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The Pleasure is Mine Restaurant
Harbor Point Racquet Club
475 East Strawberry Drive, Mill Valley
Admission - $20.00

Dance to the sounds of DJ Donna Jae. Admission includes hors d’oeuvres and no host bar.

For more information and to RSVP, please call Eleanor Palacios at 415.365.1309 or email