In a glowing opinion for a August Los Angeles Sentinel article, LA City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas reflected on his 30-year career in politics. Despite appearing to be a shoo-in for the 2022 mayor of Los Angeles race, Ridley-Thomas stated that he would not run and that he felt a different “calling”:
Ridley-Thomas says that at this point in his career, his “vocation and focus is that of the homeless crisis in the city of Los Angeles, and I will be committed to that particular problem.” He says he currently believes he can have the greatest impact on this issue as a member of the city council and chairman of the powerful committee that currently oversees efforts to house thousands of people now living on the streets of Los Angeles. .
While this all sounded so noble, Ridley-Thomas knew that the only thing that would “call” in a few months would be the FBI.
Of the Los Angeles Times:
Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was indicted Wednesday on federal charges of taking bribes from a former USC dean in exchange for supporting millions of dollars in LA County contracts with the university when he was a member of the County Board of Supervisors.
A federal grand jury charged Ridley-Thomas with conspiring with Marilyn Louise Flynn, then dean of USC’s School of Social Work, to send county funds to college in exchange for admitting his son Sebastian to graduate school with a full scholarship and a paid professorship.
The 20-count indictment alleges Flynn and Ridley-Thomas also concocted a plan to funnel $100,000 from one of his campaign committees through college to a nonprofit where his son would work.
Ridley-Thomas, 66, one of the most powerful political figures in Los Angeles, and Flynn are each charged with conspiracy, bribery, mail and telephone fraud.
Ridley-Thomas has long been in line for elected officials in Los Angeles who used their position and influence to enrich themselves and family members. Now he has joined the shorter line of those who may actually pay for their excesses. Former Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar was arrested last year on federal RICO charges, alleging he had accepted $1.5 million in bribes. In January, Councilman Mitch Englander was sentenced to 14 months in prison for obstructing the federal investigation into his acceptance of gifts, including $15,000 in cash, while traveling to Las Vegas and Palm Springs in 2017.
This indictment of Ridley-Thomas was years in the making. In 2018, the LA Times uncovered that the University of Southern California has received a donation of $100,000 from a campaign fund managed by Ridley-Thomas. The councilor’s son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, had previously been hired as a professor of social work and public policy, and also received a scholarship from USC to attend graduate school. Somewhere along the line, that $100,000 gift ended up in a nonprofit group run by Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.
Los Angeles County Supervisor marking ridley–Thomas, An USC alumnus with a long-standing professional relationship with Flynn, donated $100,000 from his campaign account to the school of social work.
The Times reported last year that Flynn had transferred the money to the United Ways of California with instructions to give it to a think tank of ridley–Thomasson Sebastian. the younger one ridley–Thomas was in the process of regaining his position professionally at the time.
He had abruptly resigned from the state assembly after learning that he was the subject of a sexual harassment investigation. He denied the charges, but legislative investigators later found that several charges were “more likely than not.” USCPublic policy and social work schools both offered him a job as a non-appointed professor, and the social work school also gave him a scholarship to study for a master’s degree.
The institution requested that the US Attorney’s Office conduct a criminal investigation into the gift.
Because of that donation and the ensuing investigation, Marilyn Flynn, the dean of the School of Social Work, has resigned and has also been charged and named as a co-conspirator alongside Councilman Ridley-Thomas.
“This indictment accuses a seasoned lawmaker who has allegedly violated public trust by taking official actions to benefit himself and his family member,” Atty said. Tracy L. Wilkison said. “The corrupt activities cited in the indictment were made possible by a senior administrator at a major university whose desire for funding apparently exceeded notions of integrity and fair play.”
For 30 years, this “seasoned legislator” has been working his way through the California political system as a city councilor, a city councilman, California state senate, Los Angeles board of trustees, and a councilor with seemingly no problems. Despite the looming shadow of an indictment, Ridley-Thomas made sure to make one last power play, supporting CA Rep. Karen Bass for the mayor of Los Angeles.
We’ll see how this indictment and the Los Angeles mayor’s race both play out.