Beverly Hills PD agrees to $800K settlement of retaliation lawsuits filed against police chief

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (KABC) -- The Beverly Hills Police Department is settling with three employees over allegations of retaliation and being passed over for promotions by Chief Sandra Spagnoli.

Tania Schwartz and Officer Ann Lunsman are receiving more than $800,000 in the settlement. Their attorney Brad Gage said "Beverly Hills 90210 - it's world famous, and it deserves a police chief that is capable of leading a world-famous department."

Gage provided us with new video of Spagnoli's deposition for another lawsuit. In it she is asked "Did you ever refer to Catholicism as a cult - yes or no?" She answers "Yes."

In another portion of the deposition she is asked "Have you ever made any comments about a person's age, in jest even?" Her response: "Yes."

Spagnoli has denied under oath making stereotypical, even racist remarks. Gage says there have been about 20 complaints against the department.

"It's pretty shocking when you have more than 10% of any employer where the employees are accusing someone of retaliation, harassment or discrimination," Gage said.

The city of Beverly Hills issued a statement saying in part "We have managed to reach agreements without the cost and distraction of trials so that the Beverly Hills Police Department can focus on its primary responsibility, keeping our community safe."

The chief does have supporters. The city referred us to a recent city council meeting with several speakers representing the police union.

Lt. Scott Dowling from the Beverly Hills police Department says "Chief Spagnoli inherited a challenged organization which faced a lack of strong and focused leadership for many years. We are proud of the changes thus far and support our chief's efforts."

Gage disagrees. "She's a chief and she's doing things inappropriately," she said. "That's why she's being sued."

Gage says there are at least eight cases pending against the department. He says there are other people who are afraid to come forward but believes eventually there will be more lawsuits.
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