Beverly Hills Chief of Police accused of harassment. $1.1M. Los Angeles County.


Female police chief is an agent of change, but is called out for harassment.

The Case

  • Case Name: Renato Moreno et al. v. City of Beverly Hills
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC687003
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, July 09, 2019
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, December 14, 2017
  • Type of Case: Employment
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Elizabeth R. Feffer
  • Plaintiffs:
    Renato Moreno, 44, lieutenant.
    Michael Foxen, 53, lieutenant.
    Dona Norris, 50, civilian manager.
    Shan Davis, 50 lieutenant.
  • Defendants:
    City of Beverly Hills
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,100,000
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: June 10, 2019 to July 3 2019.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 4 days .
  • Jury Polls: 10-2
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: As of December 9, 2019, the full judgment came to $7,100,000.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Goldberg & Gage by Bradley C. Gage and Terry M. Goldberg, Woodland Hills.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Liebert Cassidy Whitmore by Brian P. Walter and Geoffrey S. Sheldon, Los Angeles.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Charles Litman, Ph.D., psychology, Encino. (Treating therapist for two plaintiffs.)

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Bahar Safei-Far, Ph.D., psychology.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Michael Bostic, retired chief of police, Los Angeles .

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

     Kim Raney, chief of police, Montebello.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    The four plaintiffs were long-time employees (each over 20 years) of the Beverly Hills Police Department. Sandra Spagnoli became the city's Chief of Police in 2016.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the chief of police harrassed plaintiffs in regards to race, age and sexual orientation, and denied them job opportunities.

    Some examples of her harassing behavior included: saying to Lt. Davis, "Eww, you mean she’s a lesbian? Gross. Don’t let her touch me. Don’t let her stand next to me." 

    That Spagnoli also told Foxen that another employee was too gray or too old to be working. She told Foxen the other employee drove an old person's car –  an Acura, that he listened to old people’s music and that she (Spagnoli) went to a party of his that only had an old couple in their 60s.  

    That she asked Moreno, who is of Mexican heritage, if she had to dress Mexican to attend his holiday party. 
  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the chief never made the comments or the comments were taken out of context. That plaintiffs were making false claims because the chief was a change agent.

    While plaintiffs claimed lack of promotions or promotional opportunities, the chief had nothing to do with it. Independent evaluators found plaintiffs were not as well qualified as other employees who received the promotions.

    Although plaintiffs claimed they were not promoted to captain, each of them was able to serve as acting captain. During trial, both Davis and Foxen were acting captains. Thus there were no damages. There was no loss of salary. In fact, the plaintiffs – Davis and Moreno both had increased wages, with their acting captain promotion. Dona Norris received a bonus. All of the plaintiffs were sent for special training, some had over $10,000 worth of training.

    Davis and Norris claimed the chief did not want to stand next to Norris in a photo, but defendant produced three different photos where the chief was standing next to Norris. Although Moreno claimed he was not promoted to captain in 2017, he has not even applied for promotion.

    Moreno and Foxen went to the same therapist as Captain Rosen, who previously had been represented by Goldberg & Gage and received $2.3 million, so they were just making up their damage claims.

    The other adverse actions were all legitimate because in 2015 (before Spagnoli worked at BHPD) there was an independent company, Management Partners, Inc. that recommended the changes because of perceived deficiencies in how the department was being run by a prior chief.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Gastrointestinal distress from stress, lack of sleep.

  • Lost assignments; denial of retro pay costing $ 2,000. Lower evaluations.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $2,000.00 or more
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: Varied.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $2,000,000 including fees and costs for each plaintiff (total of $8,000,000 per defense counsel); with plaintiffs retaining jobs.
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $2,000,000 with plaintiffs leaving their employment.