Mark Ridley-Thomas indictment will shock nonprofit world and homelessness advocates, says City Council reporter

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser

Mark Ridley-Thomas receives an honorary degree during the commencement ceremony at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 12, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon.

LA City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas faces 20 federal charges of conspiracy, bribery, mail, and wire fraud — all connected to an alleged scheme with Marilyn Louise Flynn, the former dean of USC’s School of Social Work. Prosecutors say Ridley-Thomas funneled millions in public funds to the school so his son, Sebastian, could get into a graduate program and then get a job. The charges stem from his time serving on the LA Board of Supervisors in 2017 and 2018. 

For three decades, Ridley-Thomas has been one of LA’s most powerful political figures, and the indictment is a shock to City Hall, says Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Times reporter covering City Hall and the mayor’s office. 

She says he’s moved the City Council to the left in terms of homelessness policies.

“He's very assertive. I mean, he's not someone who is [afraid] to speak his mind. He has a thick skin. And he's been one of the more outspoken, bold leaders on homelessness. So it really is going to be a shock to the nonprofit providers and other people who work in the homeless arena that this has gone on.” 

Smith adds that in the immediate future, she wouldn’t be surprised if Ridley-Thomas is suspended from the City Council and was politically stunted. She compares his case to the treatment of former City Councilman Jose Huizar, who was also indicted on corruption charges and is awaiting trial.

“[Huizar] didn't resign, but he basically was neutered while there was this investigation going on. … Mark Ridley-Thomas is a very pugnacious guy, I think people fully expect him to fight this,” she explains. “He could resign. He could stay on the council. The council could take steps though, basically to remove his power.”

She adds that his constituents might feel the impact of the scandal because Ridley-Thomas might not be able to provide constituent input during the city’s current redistricting initiatives.

Ridley-Thomas has not personally commented on the indictment, but attorney Michael J. Proctor said in a statement that the councilman "was shocked by the federal allegations leveled against him, and with good reason. They are wrong, and we look forward to disproving them.''

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