LA City’s Charter Outlines Removal of Mark Ridley-Thomas Following Verdict

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Following Thursday’s verdict in the case of suspended Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, in which jurors found him guilty in a slate of federal charges, the city’s charter outlined the outcome for City Hall, his removal from office.

As of Thursday afternoon, members of the council had not issued any statements indicating any future actions. But, according to city officials, the verdict will have implications moving forward as to who will represent Council District 10, which Ridley-Thomas was elected to represent for a four-year term in 2020.

“Upon a conviction of a felony of a council member, the seat becomes vacant under the charter,” said Hydee Feldstein Soto, L.A. City attorney. “It’s different than the temporary vacancy that occurred upon suspension and appointment.”

“What happens next is really up to council. Council would decide whether to appoint a caretaker, whether to appoint a voting council member or whether to hold a special election,” Feldstein Soto said. “It’s premature for me to speak to what my clients might do when they’re on recess.”

Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson on Twitter recognized Ridley- Thomas’ verdict, but also acknowledged the veteran politician’s longstanding career and the contributions toward his community.

“When those in power choose to forget our community, Mark Ridley- Thomas centered and uplifted us,” Harris-Dawson wrote on Twitter. “We are called to acknowledge this history in the coming days as we navigate the next steps.”

Councilman Bob Blumenfield said in a statement that Thursday’s verdict left no room for ambiguity. Justice was served because bribery and pay-to- play schemes in Los Angeles are unacceptable and must be stopped, he added.

“I am disappointed and saddened by the reality that he is the third City Council colleague to either plead or be found guilty of corruption,” Blumenfield said in a statement. “It further tears the fabric of trust in local public officials. I am also saddened as this verdict ignominiously ends the career and stains the legacy, of a man who had been a trailblazer, an icon and effective legislator for many years.”

Ridley-Thomas had been suspended from City Council in 2021 after his indictment in a federal corruption case, but not permanently ousted. However, with his removal from office imminent, District 10 will once again be without a voting representative.

According to city officials, if he had been acquitted of federal charges against him for corruption and bribery, he would have returned to his seat at the completion of the trial and appointed Councilmember Heather Hutt would have vacated the position.

The 10th District is currently being represented by Hutt, who was appointed by the council to the seat in September 2022. According to city officials, prior to that, Hutt was serving as a caretaker while Herb Wesson — who was originally appointed to fill in during Ridley-Thomas’ suspension — was legally barred from performing his duties on the council and eventually had to resign.

According to city officials, Council President Paul Krekorian could continue Hutt’s appointment to represent Council District 10 through the remainder of Ridley-Thomas’s term, through December 2024. However, the council could also decide to hold a special election and hand the decision to voters in the 10th District.

If someone is not appointed to serve as a voting member of council, Krekorian could appoint someone as a non-voting caretaker of the seat or continue Hutt’s appointment in that regard.

Ridley-Thomas’ conviction, from actions taken while he was a supervisor for Los Angeles County, is another blow to City Hall after Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander’s corruption cases.

Ridley-Thomas 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 county supervisor — agreed to steer county money to the university in return for admitting his son Sebastian Ridley-Thomas into graduate school with a full-tuition scholarship and a paid professorship. Flynn pleaded guilty in September.

In exchange, the indictment contends, Ridley-Thomas supported county contracts involving the School of Social Work, including lucrative deals 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.

The city council is in recess until April 11.

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