L.A. City Council votes to reinstate salary of indicted member Mark Ridley-Thomas

A man in glasses and a suit
The Los Angeles City Council voted to restore the salary of indicted Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was suspended by his colleagues in October 2021 and is awaiting trial.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times )

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to reinstate the salary of indicted Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, more than a year after he was suspended from his post while facing federal corruption charges.

Ridley-Thomas, who has been stripped of his duties for nearly 14 months, will receive about $265,000, while an additional $99,500 will go to his legal team. The deal was approved by a 10-1 vote, with Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell opposed.

The agreement means taxpayers will be compensating two council members from the same district simultaneously — Ridley-Thomas, who was elected to the seat in 2020, and Heather Hutt, who was selected by the council three months ago to serve the district on a temporary basis.

Over the past year, four Los Angeles City Council members have lost their campaigns for reelection or higher office. A fifth could soon join them.

Nov. 10, 2022


City Controller Ron Galperin halted the pay of Ridley-Thomas in October 2021 after the council member was suspended by his colleagues in the wake of the indictment. Ridley-Thomas sued the city over that move earlier this year, saying it violated the City Charter and was politically motivated.

Council President Paul Krekorian made clear he agreed with at least some of Ridley-Thomas’ legal analysis.

“There is no reasonable reading of the charter that gives any controller, past or future, the authority to discontinue paying any city employee based on a subjective interpretation of whether or not they’re properly performing their functions as a city employee,” he said in an interview.

Prosecutors have accused Ridley-Thomas of conspiring with a USC dean to steer county money to the university in return for USC admitting his son Sebastian into its graduate school with full tuition and a paid professorship. Ridley-Thomas has pleaded not guilty to bribery, conspiracy and fraud in the case stemming from his time as a member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

Ridley-Thomas, whose district stretches from Koreatown to the Crenshaw Corridor, will continue to receive his salary even if he remains suspended from his post. His trial is set for March, and Hutt continues to represent the district.

Crystal Nix-Hines, a lawyer for Ridley-Thomas, said she and her client were pleased with the settlement, which will bring an end to his lawsuit.


“It is very clear under the City Charter that the controller had no authority to terminate the salary and benefits of Councilmember Ridley-Thomas and Controller Galperin did so at a time when Councilmember Ridley-Thomas needed them the most to mount his legal defense,” she said. “Controller Galperin’s actions are indefensible.”

Galperin, in an email to The Times, said he terminated Ridley-Thomas’ salary in response to his indictment and suspension by the council.

The measure taken by my office was in accordance with city law,” he said. “I acted because my job as controller and the taxpayers’ watchdog required it.”

Lawyers for City Atty. Mike Feuer had recommended the council approve the negotiated settlement. Under the agreement, the city will provide Ridley-Thomas $131,863 in back pay covering the period from October 2021 through the end of next week, according to Feuer spokesman Rob Wilcox.

Another $131,688 will cover future earnings for the period spanning from Dec. 18 to June 2023, Wilcox said. The total cost of the settlement is about $364,500.

Wednesday’s agreement has the potential to open the door to another legal challenge — this one by former Councilmember Jose Huizar, who is also facing federal corruption charges.

Like Ridley-Thomas, Huizar has pleaded not guilty. And like Ridley-Thomas, he had his pay halted by Galperin shortly after being suspended by his colleagues. Huizar’s case, which covers a sprawling series of racketeering and bribery charges, heads to trial next year.

Huizar left office in December 2020 due to term limits, after going nearly six months without his city salary.

Council members earn more than $229,000 annually. In his lawsuit, Ridley-Thomas said he has been unable to pursue outside work during his suspension, since the City Charter bars elected officials from receiving an outside income.

Councilmember Curren Price, who voted for the settlement, said Galperin “made a rush to judgment without merit.”

“Councilmember Ridley-Thomas has a right to due process,” Price said in a statement, “and that should take place in the court of law.”