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Hurricane threat pushes Ridley-Thomas sentencing back a week

A man flanked by two women, all dressed in business attire.
Mark Ridley-Thomas, center, faces sentencing Aug. 28 for his conviction in a corruption case.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our City Hall newsletter. It’s Dakota Smith at the helm, with help from David Zahniser and Matt Hamilton.

A tropical storm heading for Southern California has triggered a delay in Monday’s sentencing of longtime politician Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Ciaran McEvoy, a public information officer for the U.S. attorney’s office, said Friday that the storm threat and travel issues — Ridley-Thomas’ legal team was scheduled to come to court from San Francisco — caused the sentencing to be pushed back to Aug. 28.

As The Times’ Matt Hamilton has reported, the U.S. attorney’s office is seeking a six-year sentence for Ridley-Thomas for his role in the federal corruption probe of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors contracts and USC. Ridley-Thomas’ lawyers want no prison time, and instead, probation with home confinement, community service and a monetary penalty.

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Jurors in March convicted the former L.A. City Council member of honest services fraud for sending a $100,000 donation from a fund to USC’s school of social work. Prosecutors said Ridley-Thomas knew the university would then route the money to a nonprofit run by his son, Sebastian.

Prosecutors said the action was part of a broader conspiracy in which Ridley-Thomas extracted benefits from USC in exchange for supporting county business that the university coveted.

Ahead of the sentencing, more than 130 people wrote letters of support for Ridley-Thomas to U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer. The group included Democratic strategist Laphonza Butler, public affairs consultant Kerman Maddox, former City Controller Rick Tuttle and City Planning Commissioner Karen Mack.

Supporters shared anecdotes of Ridley-Thomas’ work on racial justice, health, social services, and more. Some recalled Ridley-Thomas visiting them or a family member in the hospital.

Butler, president of Emily’s List, told the judge of the struggles her family went through when her partner was diagnosed with breast cancer. “Mr. Ridley-Thomas was the person who, despite the importance of his role as County Supervisor, would call weekly to check on my family, ask if we needed anything, or just send a thoughtful text of prayer to lift our spirits,” she wrote.

State Sen. Steve Bradford, whose district includes part of South L.A., wrote that he doesn’t “discount the reality” that Ridley-Thomas was convicted in his case. “However, I encourage all parties to consider how he has devoted his life to serving others,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Bernard C. Parks, the former police chief and City Council member — and a longtime critic of Ridley-Thomas — took a sharply different approach, asking the judge to sentence Ridley-Thomas to more than six years.

Parks said Ridley-Thomas’ one-time colleagues on the County Board of Supervisors were also “victimized by his crimes” and said he’s shown no remorse for his actions.

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Ridley-Thomas defeated Parks in a hotly competitive race for county supervisor in 2008. Parks left the council in 2015.

State of play

— MOVEMENT ON MAYFAIR: The City Council signed off Friday on Mayor Karen Bass’ proposal to buy the Mayfair Hotel and turn it into interim homeless housing, despite concerns over the city’s handling of the facility the last time it served as a homeless a shelter. The Times reported that the city quietly paid $11.5 million to resolve claims over damage that took place inside the building during the two years when it was a Project Roomkey site.

DEEP SIXED: Without comment, the City Council unanimously blocked Jamie York, City Controller Kenneth Mejia’s nominee to the Ethics Commission, from joining that panel on Friday. The move immediately drew protests from York’s supporters, as well as from Sergio Perez, the controller’s chief of accountability and oversight.

Perez, in a statement, called York “the most qualified” of any ethics commission nominee in recent years. “The City Council voted down Jamie York, unanimously, hurriedly, and without debate, but not because they thought she couldn’t do the job. They voted her down because they were afraid she would,” he said.

BATTLING THE BULGARI: In other hotel-related news, Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky mustered the eighth vote she needed in her fight against the Bulgari, a 58-room resort that had been planned in Benedict Canyon. The council voted 8-6 to ask the city’s planning director to halt the city’s environmental review of the Bulgari midstream. No word yet on what the planning director will do. The department also said it doesn’t have a timeline for a decision.

— POLICY WIN IN DC: Bass secured a major policy victory this week, with federal housing officials announcing they will exempt local housing providers from rules requiring that homeless residents document their income and homeless status before being moved into apartments. Under the change, applicants will be allowed to move in first and then assemble their documents.

CORRUPTION WIN IN OC: When it comes to government corruption, L.A. City Hall finally has some serious competition, with prosecutors revealing that former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu had agreed to plead guilty to obstruction of justice, wire fraud and two counts of making false statements during an investigation into his push to sell Angel Stadium.

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— ROCKY START: Councilmember Imelda Padilla has parted ways with her district director, Mark Lomeli, who stepped down after Knock LA asked about his DUI. The outlet previously reported Lomeli had sexual misconduct allegations against him substantiated in a state Assembly report.

— CASH OR CASH?: Councilwoman Heather Hutt wants to ban cashless businesses in L.A., according to the Daily News. “Cashless businesses create an economy in our city that is not inclusive and accessible for all people,” Hutt said in a statement. “There are many unbanked groups … that rely on cash to pay for goods and services.”

HOTEL HELP?: Councilmember Kevin de León submitted a motion noting that the Bjarke Ingels-designed Arts District mixed-use project is seeking financial assistance from the city for its hotel component, reports Urbanize L.A. The renderings show a massive project: More than 800,000 square feet of offices, 420 homes, ground-floor commercial uses and a 236-room hotel, according to Urbanize.

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Quick hits

  • Where did Inside Safe go? The mayor’s signature program to move people off the streets and under a roof did not head to any new locations.
  • On the docket for next week: The City Planning Commission will take up Harvard-Westlake’s proposal to add a sports facility and park in Studio City.

Stay in touch

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