LA City Council Votes to Suspend Mark Ridley-Thomas From Office
Mark Ridley-Thomas faces federal bribery and conspiracy charges stemming from his time as a Los Angeles County supervisor.
On the day Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was arraigned on federal bribery and conspiracy charges, his council colleagues voted Wednesday in favor of immediately suspending him from office.
The motion to suspend Ridley-Thomas was introduced by Council President Nury Martinez and seconded by Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, the council president pro tem. It was approved 11-3 early Wednesday afternoon.
“The trial on the indictment has yet to take place and a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty; however, a council member who has been charged with public corruption cannot continue to exercise the powers of city office and preserve public trust,” the motion states.
Hours later, Ridley-Thomas pleaded not guilty to the federal charges against him.
He issued a statement following the council vote.
“I am humbled by the support of my colleagues who did not rush to judgement and disappointed in those who did,” he said. “Eleven members of this Council have stripped the constituents of the 10th District of their representation, of their voice and of their right to the services that they deserve. They have removed from action a member – and his team – who together are among the most productive and effective advocates on the crisis of homelessness. I will continue fighting to clear my name, and I remain confident that such will be the case. But in the interim, the council has disenfranchised the residents of the 10th District.”
Ridley-Thomas told his colleagues on Monday that he will “immediately step back” from participating in council and committee meetings, but he intends to remain in office and resume participating “at the earliest appropriate time.”
“I fully appreciate the importance of the council being able to conduct its business with minimal distractions. With that in mind, and with deep respect for each of you, I write to let you know of my intention to immediately step back from participating in both full council and committee meetings,” Ridley-Thomas wrote in a letter to other council members.
In a statement Friday, Ridley-Thomas said he has “no intention of resigning” his seat and is focused on fighting the charges, which do not relate to his service on the City Council, but during his previous work on the county Board of Supervisors.
“Going forward, I intend to do two things: disprove the allegations leveled at me and continue the work I was elected to do — most importantly, addressing the homeless and housing crisis,” he said.
The 20-count indictment filed in Los Angeles federal court on Wednesday alleges that then-Supervisor Ridley-Thomas conspired with Marilyn Louise Flynn, 83, former dean of USC’s School of Social Work, who prosecutors claim agreed to provide Ridley-Thomas’ son with graduate school admission, a full-tuition scholarship and a paid professorship at the university. She also allegedly arranged to funnel a $100,000 donation from Ridley-Thomas’ campaign funds through the university to a nonprofit to be operated by his son.
In exchange, the indictment alleges, Ridley-Thomas supported county contracts involving the School of Social Work, including contracts to provide services to the county Department of Children and Family Services and Probation Department, as well as an amendment to a contract with the Department of Mental Health that would bring the school millions of dollars in new revenue.
Ridley-Thomas is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon via Zoom. Flynn’s arraignment was set for Oct. 25.
Attorneys for both have denied any wrongdoing.
On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Kathryn Barger to hire an outside law firm to investigate the allegations against Ridley-Thomas and examine “the associated county processes and policies in place.”
“Over the years, we have sought to prevent corruption by controlling opportunity, incentive and risk through robust processes and policies that provided transparency and accountability,” according to the motion. “We recommit ourselves to these principles and to a renewed assessment of further process and policy improvements.”
The 66-year-old Ridley-Thomas is a giant figure in local politics, previously serving on the Los Angeles City Council from 1991-2002, then serving in the state Assembly and state Senate before he was elected to the powerful county Board of Supervisors in 2008, serving until 2020 when he returned to the City Council.
Councilman Joe Buscaino, who serves on the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, called for Ridley-Thomas to be surrender his council seat. City Council President Nury Martinez, meanwhile, said the council “will need to take appropriate action” against Ridley-Thomas, although she did not provide specifics.
Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who sits on the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, called on Ridley-Thomas to at least step down as chairman of the committee and be stripped of other committee assignments “in the short term.”