A long time Democrat politician in California has been indicted on federal corruption charges stemming from actions he took while working on the LA County Board of Supervisors.
While long time Los Angeles County and City politician Mark Ridley-Thomas, 66, was a member of the LA County Board of Supervisors, he donated $100,000 to the University of Southern California’s Dean of Social Work Marilyn Flynn’s department. Soon after the donation was made, Flynn hired Ridley-Thomas’ son Sebastian.
After the initial donation, Ridley-Thomas began sending millions of dollars worth of county contracts to the University of Southern California.
Then, near the end of 2017, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas abruptly resigned from his position as state assemblyman, claiming that he was suffering from health problems that would take a while to recover from. Just months after his resignation, he was hired by the University of Southern California a professor of social work and public policy.
A press release from the Department of Justice details Ridley-Thomas’ actions and the charges against him:
“The 20-count indictment alleges that Ridley-Thomas, now a member of the Los Angeles City Council, conspired with Marilyn Louise Flynn, formerly a tenured professor and the dean of the university’s School of Social Work, who agreed to provide the Ridley-Thomas relative with graduate school admission, a full-tuition scholarship, a paid professorship, and a mechanism to funnel Ridley-Thomas campaign funds through the university to a non-profit to be operated by the relative.
In exchange, the indictment alleges, Ridley-Thomas supported contracts involving the Social Work School, including contracts to provide services to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Probation Department, as well as an amendment to a contract with the Department of Mental Health (DMH) that would bring the school millions of dollars in new revenue.”
Officials from the University of Southern California released a statement, which reads:
“When the university learned in the summer of 2018 about the $100,000 payment referenced in the indictment, the university disclosed the issue to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and has fully cooperated ever since. Marilyn Flynn has not been employed by the university since September 2018. We will continue to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and must limit comments because this is a pending criminal matter.”
Outside of the University of Southern California, many people are expressing concern over Ridley-Thomas’ corruption and its implications.
Loyola Marymount University Law Professor Jessica Levinson stated: “A federal indictment is very serious,” adding that, if the charges are proven, both Ridley-Thomas and Flynn are facing serious sentences.
“Has there been something percolating for a long time about USC and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and this kind of strange relationship, and how Sebastian Ridley-Thomas left the assembly; he gets this kind of golden-parachute, plum job at USC, nobody’s really sure why and then USC gets a lot of benefits when Mark Ridley-Thomas is member of the Board of Supervisors? Yes. Did anybody ever put those two things together to form a criminal indictment? Not until today,” Levinson continued.
Fernando Guerra, a professor of Political Science at Loyola Marymount University, said the charges could have a negative effect on public trust in our institutions.
“You have a very significant individual who is well known, expected to run for mayor, one of the icons of the political establishment and then you have USC, another iconic institution and in higher education. So, we don’t expect that,” Guerra said.
Nury Martinez, president of the LA City Council, also released a statement about the indictment, which read: “I’m disappointed in the news that has come out this afternoon of federal bribery charges against Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas. While the alleged crimes took place while Mr. Ridley-Thomas say on the Board of Supervisors, these charges are serious and the Council will need to take appropriate action.”
Others, like fellow City Councilman and current candidate for mayor of LA Joe Buscaino, are calling for Ridley-Thomas to resign.
“I am shocked, saddened, and disgusted by the Federal bribery charges against Mark Ridley-Thomas. These charges tarnish the reputation of the entire LA City Council, and because of that, Ridley-Thomas should immediately step down from his position,” Busciano tweeted.
I am shocked, saddened, and disgusted by the Federal bribery charges against Mark Ridley-Thomas. These charges tarnish the reputation of the entire LA City Council, and because of that, Ridley-Thomas should immediately step down from his position.
— Joe Buscaino (@JoeBuscaino) October 14, 2021