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Reported: L.A. Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas will ‘Step Back’ From Civic Duties
By Betti Halsell, Contributing Writer
Published October 21, 2021

Councilmember Mark Ridley Thomas (Courtesy Photo)

There have been multiple reports confirming Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas will “step back” from responsibilities as a councilmember, but not resign from the role. The councilmember is facing troubling allegations, painting a picture of bribery between Ridley-Thomas and the University of Southern California (USC), with the councilmember’s son sitting at the core.

Ridley-Thomas was accused of corruption, labeled as a “bribery scheme,” outlining an array of special amenities that his son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, would receive from USC. In a quid pro quo deal, Council member Ridley-Thomas allegedly agreed to provide financial support and contracts from the county that would align with the needs of the university.

Representing USC was Marilyn Louise Flynn, a former tenured professor and dean of the school’s social work department. It has been reported through L.A. Times, she agreed to look over the admission of Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, with his tuition waived, paid professorship, and alleged funnel for funds associated with campaigns by Ridley-Thomas, to be overseen by the councilmembers’ son during the time of the tenure.

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Ridley-Thomas spoke out about his role in public service on Friday, Deadline captured the councilmember saying, “I have no intention of resigning my seat on the City Council or neglecting my duties. Doing so would be to the detriment of the people I serve, and I have no intention of leaving my constituents without a voice on matters that directly affect their well-being. 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.”

The recent allegations are tethered to a time Ridley-Thomas served on the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors. The Los Angeles Sentinel has covered his career throughout his term in public service.

As a county Supervisor, Ridley-Thomas held meetings that were focused on “establishing an anti-racist Los Angeles County policy agenda,” during the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Amid those socially distanced moments, Ridley-Thomas led discussions to help the community and provided supplies needed to waiver this viral pandemic. In May of 2020, Ridley-Thomas rallied for unincorporated areas to receive 1.8 million dollars in federally funded emergency rental assistance.

Areas under the second-district authority include Athens, East and West Rancho Dominguez, Florence Firestone, Ladera Heights, Lennox, View Park, Windsor Hills, and Willowbrook. Ridley-Thomas traveled for several weeks and passed out over 10,000 masks to essential workers across those areas.

When the pandemic reached over 200,000 cases, masks were in high demand. Most of the protective equipment (PPE) were reserved for medical centers and first responders. Jobs in underserved communities were left with even fewer preventative resources. This environment left them exposed to the risk of community transmission. Ridley-Thomas acknowledged the vulnerability people of color were facing and the essential responsibility to work during COVID-19.

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Recently, Councilmember Ridley-Thomas confirmed he would not be running for city mayor on August 16. Revisiting his statement from Twitter, the councilmember said, “After much careful consideration, I have decided not to run for the office of Mayor of Los Angeles.”

Ridley-Thomas continued, “I want to focus on homelessness. Of course, homelessness encompasses many issues: poverty, housing policy, environmental justice, racial equity, public safety, public health etc. That’s why it’s so complex.”

As of October 19, fellow council members made plans to vote on the immediate suspension of Ridley-Thomas. According to a report from City News Service, the motion was brought to the floor by Council President Nury Martinez and supported by Councilman Mitch O’Farrell.

Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin announced that if the council voted to suspend Ridley-Thomas that “he will strip Mark Ridley-Thomas of his salary and benefits” and that “No one indicted for public corruption and suspended by the City Council should receive a taxpayer-funded salary.”

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