By MARGARET SHUTTLEWORTH | City news service
A group of residents and faith leaders from Council District 10 protested outside Los Angeles City Hall on Friday, March 4, to demand the reinstatement of council member Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has been suspended following his arraignment in a federal corruption case.
The group of about 20 people held a large sign that read “You stole our vote!!!” in front of a parking garage on the main street side of City Hall. They also chanted “You stole our voice” as people pulled into the garage.
Rev. KW Tulloss, president of the Los Angeles Baptist Ministerial Conference, told City News Service the group was protesting the reinstatement of Ridley-Thomas and the process, which was being conducted “behind the scenes.”
“We’re demanding due process, we’re demanding a seat at the table to really discuss a lot of the issues of transparency and civil rights violations,” Tulloss said.
— David Crane (@vidcrane) March 4, 2022
“We want Mark Ridley-Thomas reinstated. He is the one the people put in office.”
On February 22, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously appointed former District 10 councilman Herb Wesson to temporarily represent the district, either until December 31 or until Ridley-Thomas is acquitted or the charges are dropped.
But two days later, Los Angeles Superior Court Justice Mary Strobel issued an injunction barring Wesson from filling the council seat, at least until a March 17 injunction hearing. The order was part of a lawsuit filed by Southern California’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference aimed at getting Ridley-Thomas reinstated on the council.
Wesson represented the 10th District from 2005 to December 2020. He also served as President of the Council from 2012 to 2020. The lawsuit states that Wesson is “resigned” and claims that he cannot legitimately serve on the council because he has already represented the district for three terms.
Ridley-Thomas, who was executive director of SCLC’s greater Los Angeles chapter from 1981 to 1991, was suspended from the council in October following federal indictments for alleged actions while serving on the county board of supervisors.
“The residents of the 10th Circuit want and deserve a vote, and they overwhelmingly wanted Herb Wesson. As a result, that council voted unanimously to appoint Mr. Wesson,” Council President Nury Martinez said in a statement after the appointment was blocked. “This whole situation of the past four months is not fair to the residents of Council District 10. In fact, they are in this situation through no fault of their own. It is my intention to ensure that this district has one voting member. I stand for giving residents a voice and a vote on City Council. We are currently in talks with the City Attorney and will determine our legal options.”
Since Ridley-Thomas’ suspension, the 10th Ward has been headed by caretaker Karly Katona, who has no voting rights. The council vote to suspend Ridley-Thomas was defeated by three councillors: councilors Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Bonin and Curren Price. Price said before the vote that his office had been inundated with calls in support of Ridley-Thomas from South LA residents.
The trial of Ridley-Thomas and former dean of the USC School of Social Work Marilyn Flynn is expected to begin August 9. A member of the county board of supervisors — agreed to funnel county funds to the university in exchange for that his son Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was accepted into the graduate school on a full scholarship and a paid professorship.
Flynn has reportedly arranged for a $100,000 donation from Ridley-Thomas campaign funds to be funneled through the university to a non-profit organization to be run by his son, a former member of the state assembly. The donation sparked an investigation by the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, which is still open, prosecutors said.
In return, the indictment alleges, Ridley-Thomas supported county contracts involving the school of social work, including lucrative deals to provide services to the county Department of Child and Family Services and the Probation Department, and a contract change with the Department of Mental Health, which would bring millions of dollars in new revenue to the school.
Both defendants have firmly denied any wrongdoing and have promised evidence will clear their names.