Los Angeles’s political and regional leaders were shocked by a corruption case against Wednesday against Mark Ridley-Thomas, one of the city’s most prominent and long-serving officials.
Ridley-Thomas is accused of collaborating with Marilyn Louise Flynn, who was then in the USC’s School of Social Work department, to take district funds to the university in return for admitting her son Sebastian to graduate school with full-tuition studies and a paid professor. Ridley-Thomas was on the Los Angeles County Board of Trustees at the time. He was later elected to the City Council representing South Los Angeles.
Neither Ridley-Thomas nor his lawyer have responded to requests for comment.
Wednesday’s announcement was a shocking experience for a politician who has been an expert voice at the city level for 30 years and a regional level developer on the problem of homelessness.
A Leimert Park resident, Ridley-Thomas was elected to the City Council in 1991, a few months after police caught on video beating driver Rodney King. While in office, he fought hard for the attention of the LAPD and pushed for the departure of his — Chief of Police Daryl Gates.
After his inauguration in parliament, Ridley-Thomas joined the Board of Trustees, working to re-establish Martin Luther King Jr. The People’s Hospital in Willowbrook, which was closed following years of mismanagement, and bringing a small railway to Crenshaw Boulevard and Los Angeles International Airport. He also launched programs to combat homelessness, including Measure H, which pays for rent assistance, living beds and other services.
In August, he announced he would not run for mayor, saying fighting homelessness was his “call and attention”.
“I will step down and rely on that issue,” he said.
Just hours before the public appearance, a Times reporter spoke to Ridley-Thomas about her new homelessness policy, which she had in writing. During the call, a politician in the war gave no indication that anything was wrong. They said they planned to attend a session of Representative Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) over the weekend.
Sixty-six-year-old Ridley-Thomas is the third member of the La City Council to address corruption in the past two years. He and Flynn each face charges of sedition, bribery, letters and wire fraud.
Former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander was arrested in March 2020 on charges of misappropriating funds and other gifts he received at casinos in Las Vegas and near Palm Springs. He later pleaded guilty to one count of felony criminal mischief and was sentenced to 14 months in prison.
In June 2020, at that time-council Jose Huizar was charged with corruption, with prosecutors alleging that he started a criminal business involving fraud, bribery, money laundering, and other crimes involving a number of architects seeking to build in the city. Huizar has denied the allegations and is seeking to have most of the charges dropped.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, called the accusation a “devastating legal and local disaster in the area of the LA Blacks.”
“Ridley-Thomas has been a one-man organization in Black politics, and in the Black community, for many, many years,” he said. “He has a lot of people, a lot of people, who look to him and not to him as their representative – they see him as a political leader.”
Hutchinson urged city officials not to rush to court, saying “prosecution is not a crime.”
Council President Nury Martinez showed the council can do.
In a statement, Martinez said he was disappointed with the news of the crime.
“While the allegations are alleged to have taken place during Mr Ridley-Thomas’ stay on the Board of Trustees, these cases are serious and the council will need to take appropriate action,” he said.
Councilor Joe Buscaino, currently running for mayor, made a strong statement, saying he was “surprised, saddened and disgusted” by the case.
“These charges tarnish the image of the entire Council, and as a result, Ridley-Thomas is due to resign,” Buscaino said on Twitter.
The lawsuit comes three years after The Times revealed that USC had paid Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and appointed him professor at a time when Supervisor Ridley-Thomas had funded a campaign through a university that ended up in a non-profit group. running with her son.