Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and the former dean USCProsecutors announced today that the School of Social Work has been indicted on federal corruption charges over an alleged bribery scheme to serve on the county board of supervisors since Ridley-Thomas’ time.
Democrat Ridley-Thomas is a part of local politics, having held positions, variously for the past 30 years, as an LA City Councilman, a member of the California State Legislature and Senate, and an LA County Observer.
He is the third LA city councilor to face federal charges in the past two years. Former member Jose Huizer was arrested last year on racketeering charges and pleaded not guilty. The former council member was Michelle Englander. Sentenced 14 months in federal prison since January for his conduct of obstructing a public corruption investigation.
Mayoral candidate Fellow City Councilman Joe Buscano quickly called for Ridley-Thomas to resign in light of the indictment. Buscaino said on Twitter that he was “shocked, saddened and disappointed” by the allegations, which he says “tarnish the reputation of the entire LA city council.”
City Council President Nuri Martinez said she was “disappointed” at the news, adding that “while the alleged crimes occurred while Mr Ridley-Thomas sat on the board of observers, the allegations are serious and the council needs to take appropriate action.” Will be.”
It did not specify what action could potentially be taken. When Huizer was arrested, the council voted to suspend him, leaving his staff to serve as caretakers for the district.
Prosecutors argue that a relative of Ridley-Thomas received substantial benefits from the university in exchange for Ridley-Thomas and supported lucrative contract modifications with the university while serving on the county board. USC is in the Ridley-Thomas District, which includes Arlington Heights, Koreatown, Mid-City, Olympic Park, Palms, South Robertson, West Adams, West Pico and Wilshire Center. He is also a graduate of the university, from where he earned a doctorate in social ethics.
A 20-count indictment filed in Los Angeles federal court alleges that Ridley-Thomas conspired with Marilyn Louise Flynn to provide a relative – Allegedly, his son—with admission to graduate school, a full-tuition scholarship, a paid professorship, and a mechanism to funnel Ridley-Thomas campaign funds through the university to a nonprofit run by a relative.
A lawyer for the councilor said that the case was referred to federal prosecutors at the time that they did not believe it was raised in accordance with “any legal or ethical issues”. Los Angeles Times.
“We do not believe this raises any legal or ethical issues, and it had nothing to do with his son’s scholarship or employment at the university,” said attorney Stephen Kaufman.
Acting US Attorney Tracy L. “This indictment alleges a veteran lawmaker allegedly abused the public’s trust by taking official action to benefit himself and his family member,” Wilkison said in a statement. “The alleged corrupt activities in the indictment were facilitated by a high-ranking administrator of a prominent university, whose desire for funding clearly trampled on notions of honesty and fair play. Public corruption cases are among the most commonly taken by us. There are significant cases, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute whenever public officials and others entrusted with taxpayer funds break the law.”
The indictment outlines an alleged scheme in 2017 and 2018 in which then-supervisor Ridley-Thomas sought benefits from Flynn and university officials to benefit his relative, who was the subject of an internal sexual assault investigation in the state assembly, from elected There was a possibility of resigning. Office and quite in debt.
The relative was not named in the indictment, however, as Ridley-Thomas’ son Sebastian resigned from the Assembly in 2017 amid an investigation into complaints of sexual harassment. He insisted at the time that his resignation was for health reasons and not because of a sexual assault investigation. Sebastian Ridley-Thomas later became a professor of social work and public policy at USC – despite his lack of a bachelor’s degree. He was later terminated over questions about his original appointment and over $100,000 by the university.
Donated from his father’s campaign fund to the School of Social Work, then
Directed to the nonprofit of Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.
Prosecutors claim that Mark Ridley-Thomas wanted to secure paid employment for his son in order to minimize any public fallout for both of them in the wake of the son’s sudden resignation from office. Meanwhile, the School of Social Work was facing multimillion-dollar budget deficits that threatened the viability of the school, as well as Flynn’s position and reputation as the school’s longtime dean, according to the indictment.
As part of the bribery scheme, Ridley-Thomas and Flynn reportedly took “steps to conceal, hide and cover up the bribes, bribes and other benefits” Ridley-Thomas and his relative received – including official acts The concealment involved Ridley-Thomas agreed to perform in exchange for financial gain, according to the document.
According to the indictment, the pair also concealed the actual purpose of giving $100,000 to the relative’s nonprofit through the university, which also violated several university policies regarding funding of nonprofits, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors allege that Ridley-Thomas began a campaign to secure both university admission and a full scholarship for the relative, within weeks of contacting Flynn in May 2017 about his relative’s desire for a master’s degree from the university. did.
Flynn wrote in an email that she wanted to open every door for a family member, the indictment alleges. When a university official said that Ridley-Thomas had “a lot of discretionary money” and should give the university “$1M each year for three years”, according to the indictment, Flynn responded that
He and another university official intended to give a relative a full scholarship in exchange for money for the school.
Prosecutors said that in June 2017, Ridley-Thomas and Flynn reportedly reached an agreement, which Flynn later recalled in a confidential letter he handed over to Ridley-Thomas. The indictment alleges that Flynn’s letter detailed his expectations that Ridley-Thomas would pursue new contracts at the social work school with DCFS and probation and secure a lucrative amendment to the existing telehealth-DMH contract.
With the new amendment, Flynn expected the telehealth contract to generate about $9 million a year for the School of Social Work, prosecutors argue.
The indictment alleges that Ridley-Thomas voted in August 2017 to approve a proposal to establish a partnership between the county and the School of Social Work, and in October to approve a proposal relating to a “probation university”. In 2017 took a series of official actions, including voting. ”, which will create a county payment source for the school.
Flynn told university officials in an email that she was “very happy to see this”. [Ridley-Thomas] The indictment alleges that he was as good as his word” and that he was “really trying to deliver”.
The alleged conspiracy count in the indictment provides for a sentence of up to five years in federal prison. Each bribery count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. Each charge of mail fraud and wire fraud carries a fine of up to 20 years.
City News Service contributed to this report.