LOS ANGELES—On the day Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas is scheduled to be arraigned on federal bribery and conspiracy charges, his council colleagues will vote Oct. 20 on whether to immediately suspend him from office.
The motion to suspend Ridley-Thomas, 66, was introduced by Council President Nury Martinez and seconded by Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, the council president pro tem. The vote is scheduled as a special meeting at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, amid the council’s regular 10 a.m. meeting.
“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.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Oct. 19 to hire outside counsel to conduct a potentially wide-ranging investigation of the county contracting processes, prompted by a federal indictment of former Ridley-Thomas, a former supervisor.
Supervisors Hilda Solis and Kathryn Barger co-authored a motion calling for an investigation into the contracts relevant to the indictment, including a review of existing county policies and processes by a forensic auditor.
“The motion is about restoring trust,” Solis said. “Transparency and accountability are values that should never be compromised.”
Ridley-Thomas told his city council 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 University of Southern California’s School of Social Work, who prosecutors claim agreed to provide Ridley-Thomas’s 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’s 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.