Four Beverly Hills Police Department employees who said they were subjected to harassing and discriminatory treatment by Chief Sandra Spagnoli were collectively awarded more than $1 million in damages Tuesday by a downtown Los Angeles jury.
Attorneys for the employees — three lieutenants and a civilian employee — said during the trial of their lawsuit that Spagnoli made disparaging comments about Catholics, Jews and Latinos.
The jury awarded Lt. Renato Moreno $350,000 in damages, while Lts. Shan Davis and Michael Foxen and civilian employee Dona Norris, the BHPD’s public safety communications and evidence manager, were each awarded $250,000.
Moreno maintained he endured “pervasive” anti-Latino and anti-Catholic discrimination under Spagnoli and that matters came to a head when he provided deposition testimony on behalf of former Capt. Mark Rosen, who sued the city for discrimination and retaliation and settled for $2.3 million. Rosen, who is Jewish, maintained Spagnoli make remarks offensive to Jewish people.
Foxen said he suffered a backlash when he notified management that Officer Lisa Weller, who is gay, was paid less than a heterosexual male officer with the same experience.
Davis was Norris’ supervisor and alleges Spagnoli directed him to lower Norris’ performance evaluation because she is gay. The chief never gave an explanation to justify lowering Norris’ evaluation, according to Davis.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Bradley Gage said during the trial that Spagnoli made inappropriate comments about age, ethnicity and religion that included calling Catholicism a “cult” and describing the common headwear of Jewish men as “funny hats.”
But lawyer Brian Walter, on behalf of the city, said Spagnoli apologized and was reprimanded by the city for tasteless statements she did make, but that she was also blamed for having made remarks she actually never uttered.
Walter said Spagnoli — the department’s first female chief — upset some members of the department who were more accustomed to the previous regime of longtime Chief Dave Snowden, who held the job for 12 years.
Spagnoli, who testified that she was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and is now a practicing Catholic, said she was reprimanded by city management for her remarks and ordered to undergo sensitivity training. She denied she was racist, homophobic or prejudiced against anyone because of their religion.
Spagnoli, 51, previously was the police chief for Benicia and San Leandro in Northern California, where she grew up.
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