L.A. County supervisors may order audit to examine Mark Ridley-Thomas bribery charges
Two Los Angeles County supervisors are calling for an independent investigation into federal criminal charges against their former colleague Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is accused of taking bribes from a USC dean in exchange for lucrative county contracts.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will consider a motion to hire an outside law firm for the investigation, which would focus on both the allegations against Ridley-Thomas and “the associated county processes and policies.”
The proposed motion, written by board chair Hilda L. Solis and Supervisor Kathryn Barger, requires the law firm to retain a forensic auditor.
Ridley-Thomas, 66, one of the most powerful figures in Los Angeles politics, now serves on the L.A. City Council.
In a 20-count indictment, he and Marilyn Louise Flynn, a former dean of USC’s School of Social Work, face charges of conspiracy, bribery and mail and wire fraud.
“Public servants who engage in corruption are a serious threat to our democracy,” Solis said in a statement. “The alleged pay-to-play tactics that benefited Councilmember Ridley-Thomas and his family were at the expense of putting the needs of his vulnerable constituency at the forefront.”
Full coverage of Mark Ridley-Thomas, his son and the USC School of Social Work.
Prosecutors accuse Ridley-Thomas of conspiring with Flynn beginning in 2017, when he was board chair, to steer county contracts to USC in return for admitting his son Sebastian into the social work school with a full-tuition scholarship and a paid professorship.
In exchange, Ridley-Thomas allegedly ensured that the social work school received millions of dollars in contracts with the county Department of Children and Family Services, Probation Department and Department of Mental Health.
Ridley-Thomas has denied the allegations and said he “has no intention of resigning” from the City Council.
“Going forward, I intend to do two things: disprove the allegations leveled at me and continue the work I was elected to do — most importantly, addressing the homeless and housing crisis,” he said in a statement on Friday.
Federal charges have cast a shadow over the many sites named after longtime politician Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose name has decorated health centers, a youth facility, government offices and a pedestrian bridge.
Barger, who has worked at the county for more than 30 years, said in a statement that Ridley-Thomas’ alleged behavior “is an anomaly.”
“The accusations against Mark Ridley-Thomas force me to call into question what happened during his time in office,” Barger said. “This requires a thorough and independent audit to identify any questionable contracts and pursue proper legal actions to recover taxpayer funds as appropriate.”
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