Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and former dean of the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work Marilyn Louise Flynn have been charged on federal corruption allegations originating from Ridley-Thomas’ service on the county Board of Supervisors. Ridley-Thomas, a Democrat, has been a mainstay in Los Angeles politics for the last 30 years, serving as an L.A. City Councilman, a member of the California State Assembly and Senate, and an L.A. County Supervisor, among other positions.
According to Deadline, prosecutors have alleged that while on the county board, a relative of Ridley-Thomas received considerable advantages from USC in exchange for Ridley-Thomas supporting county contracts and lucrative contract revisions with the institution. USC, Arlington Heights, Koreatown, Mid-City, Olympic Park, Palms, South Robertson, West Adams, West Pico, and Wilshire Center are all in Ridley-Thomas’ district. He is a university graduate as well.
According to the 20-count indictment filed in federal court in Los Angeles, Ridley-Thomas allegedly conspired with Marilyn Louise Flynn to provide the relative, reportedly his son, with a full-ride scholarship to graduate school, a paid professorship, and a manner in which Ridley-Thomas could funnel campaign funds through the university to a nonprofit to be operated by the relative.
While the relative isn’t identified in the indictment, it does mention that Ridley-Thomas devised the plot while the relative was under investigation for sexual harassment in the California State Assembly.
During the probe, Ridley-Thomas’ son, Sebastian, resigned from the Assembly, claiming it was due to health concerns. He became a professor of social work and public policy at USC but was dismissed a short time later.
Ridley-Thomas’ attorney, Stephen Kaufman, told the Los Angeles Times, “We do not believe that it raises any legal or ethical issues, and it had nothing to do with his son’s scholarship or employment at the university.”
Ridley-Thomas is the third city councilman from Los Angeles to face federal charges in the last two years.
Last year, former member José Huizar was arrested on accusations of racketeering. In January, Mitchell Englander, a former councilmember, was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison for his role in obstructing a public corruption probe.
I am shocked, saddened, and disgusted by the Federal bribery charges against Mark Ridley-Thomas. These charges tarnish the reputation of the entire LA City Council, and because of that, Ridley-Thomas should immediately step down from his position.
— Joe Buscaino (@JoeBuscaino) October 14, 2021
Following news of the charges, fellow City Councilman Joe Buscaino, a mayoral contender, called on Ridley-Thomas to resign. He stated on Twitter, “I am shocked, saddened, and disgusted by the Federal bribery charges against Mark Ridley-Thomas. These charges tarnish the reputation of the entire L.A. City Council, and because of that, Ridley-Thomas should immediately step down from his position.”