A Superior Court judge on Tuesday, July 19, again blocked Herb Wesson from acting as a temporary replacement for suspended Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, once again leaving the 10th District without a council representative.
Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel issued the temporary restraining order preventing Wesson from performing the day-to-day duties as the 10th District council representative.
“I am very, very disappointed,” said Delores Spears, an actively involved constituent who has lived in the District for many years.
“So, Council District 10 residents are collateral damage in this fight for Mark Ridley-Thomas. We are without a voting voice on the City Council again!”
Wesson was unanimously appointed by the Los Angeles City Council. The action came on the heels of the body’s decision to suspend then-Councilman Ridley-Thomas after he and former dean of the USC School of Social Work Marilyn Flynn were charged in a 20-count indictment alleging a secret deal in which Ridley-Thomas — when he was a member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors – directed county money to the university in return for admitting his son into graduate school with a full-tuition scholarship and a paid professorship.
The ruling marked the second time that Strobel has issued a restraining order against Wesson’s service on the City Council. On Feb. 24, Strobel sided with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California’s challenge to Wesson’s appointment, issuing a temporary restraining order that blocked him from serving.
But she later vacated the order and declined to issue a preliminary injunction, saying that procedurally, the SCLC-SC needed to obtain permission from the California Attorney General’s Office to proceed with its legal challenge.
As a result, Wesson began serving on the council in mid-March. Last month, however, the Attorney General’s Office cleared the way for the SCLC-SC to proceed with its challenge, opining that there were legitimate questions about whether Wesson’s appointment was legal.
In SCLC’s complaint filed with the courts, Reverend William Smart as SCLC-SC president, alleges that Wesson cannot serve because he had “termed out” and had already represented the 10th District from 2005 through 2020.
Judge Strobel has set a possible preliminary hearing date for Tuesday, August 16, but due to the temporary restraining order, Wesson will be unable to represent the 10th District for several weeks or participate in any council meetings until the issue is resolved.Bottom of Form
Attorneys for the city argued against the restraining order, saying in part that there was no urgency for such a ruling — as noted by the SCLC’s decision to wait roughly a month after the attorney general’s ruling to even seek an injunction. City attorneys also claimed that the restraining order would do nothing to address the SCLC’s primary allegation that the City Council had no authority to suspend Ridley-Thomas.
What has many people confused is that Strobel has already ruled that the City Council was within their rights to suspend Ridley-Thomas and that the City Controller did have the authority to suspend Ridley-Thomas’s pay, so preventing Wesson from serving does not advance justice for Ridley-Thomas. It only puts the residents of the 10th Council District at an extreme disadvantage since they are now once again without representation.
Mark Ridley-Thomas and Marilyn Flynn were originally set to go to trial in August of 2022, but that date has now been moved to November 2022, and could possibly be moved back again (both defendants have pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing). This restraining order, once again, puts the very voters that Ridley-Thomas was elected to represent completely out of the loop and unrepresented for what could be a very long time.
The motion to appoint Wesson as a temporary replacement was unanimously approved by the City Council on Feb. 22. According to the appointment, Wesson is supposed to hold the position through Dec. 31, unless Ridley-Thomas is acquitted or the charges against him are dropped.
The City Council is also in the midst of its Summer recess, so appointing a different representative to the seat seems unlikely, at least for the short term.