Charlotte Spadaro, Former Beverly Hills Mayor, Faces Mental Competency Exam, Animal Cruelty Charges

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

A mental competency examination has been ordered for Charlotte Spadaro, former mayor of Beverly Hills and President of the Beverly Hills School Board. Spadaro, 71, was also recently disbarred as a California attorney and is facing 16 misdemeanor animal-cruelty charges in Riverside, the Press Enterprise reports.

Spadaro was set for trial this week but her defense attorney declared doubt about her ability to understand the court procedures. The criminal proceedings were suspended, and Spadaro’s case was sent to mental health court in downtown Riverside.

On September 26, Judge Mark Johnson appointed a psychologist to examine Spadaro. That report will be reviewed by Judge Johnson on November 7.

Authorities have called Spadaro a hoarder who takes on more stray animals than she can care for and feed. Spadaro calls herself a “rescuer.”

The current charges stem from investigation of a kennel on 1.5 acres of property in the 3500 block of Myers Street in Riverside. Spadaro does not own the property.

Spadaro also faces a single misdemeanor animal-cruelty count in San Bernardino County, set for hearing on October 4.

Past Animal-Cruelty Convictions

--In April 2010, Riverside County Department of Animal Services seized 29 neglected animals from the same Riverside property of self-proclaimed animal rescuer Charlotte Spadaro, authorities said. One dog was found dead, according to Beverly Hills Patch.

--In March 2011, Spadaro was sentenced in a Fontana court to three years of probation, counseling and community service for misdemeanor animal cruelty. Spadaro, was convicted of keeping 180 dogs and cats in unsanitary conditions at a one-acre Rialto home she used as a rescue shelter from 2004 to 2005.

Rialto police and animal control officials were led to the property after a neighbor reported a strong odor. The horde of animals, some of them dead, was seized by authorities. The property was allegedly littered with feces.

The raid touched off a six-year-long animal cruelty case against Spadaro, according to ABC News. She was was found guilty in April 2011 on charges stemming from the incident, but she says she is innocent. Her sentencing included probation, community service and forbade her from keeping animals, with the exception of three personal pets.

"No one can point to anything that I actually did that caused suffering to any animal," Spadaro said.

Disbarment Ordered by California Supreme Court

In June, the California Supreme Court ordered Spadaro’s disbarment and ordered her to make almost $25,000 in restitution to several clients, not related to the animal-cruelty cases. ( click here )

According to the Press Enterprise, the basis for disbarment was mostly aggregate complaints from former clients who said they went to Spadaro seeking help with bankruptcy, eviction, home-loan modification or avoiding foreclosure.

They claimed Spadaro took their money and then missed filing deadlines and court appearances. Spadaro was found culpable of 16 out of 19 counts, including misconduct, moral turpitude, failure to perform competently, failure to communicate and violation of client trust fund account rules.

Earlier this year, the State Bar court denied Spadaro’s appeal on a separate case in which another animal activist complained she had loaned money to Spadaro to help her with shelter operations. The Bar Court concluded the transactions were illegal because the woman was a client and order Spadaro to pay her $26,500.

Spadaro, who had practiced law since June 1970, served as Beverly Hills mayor from 1986 to '87 during a four-year term on the City Council.

In an interview while the court was considering her disbarment case, Spadaro called the charges against her “spurious.”

Source: Cal Bar, ABC, Animal Hoarding Info, Patch, PE