Oct 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Los Angeles City councilmember indicted on federal bribery charges

Los Angeles County official Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks onstage during an event at Beverly Hills Hotel on December 6, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California.

Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo: Mark Davis/Getty Images for CDF

Los Angeles City councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas and a former dean at the University of Southern California's School of Social Work were indicted Wednesday on federal corruption charges over an alleged bribery scheme.

Why it matters: The longtime politician is accused of "supporting county contracts and lucrative contract amendments" in exchange for a relative receiving "substantial benefits" in his previous role as an L.A. County supervisor, per a Department of Justice statement.

  • The Democrat is the third L.A. city councilmember to face federal charges in two years, the Los Angeles Times notes.

Between the lines: The family member is not named in the indictment, but the L.A. Times reported in 2018 that USC provided a scholarship to his son Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.

  • "USC appointed him as a professor around the time that then-Supervisor Ridley-Thomas had funneled campaign money through the university that ended up in a nonprofit group run by his son," according to the L.A. Times.

Details: The 20-count indictment, filed in Los Angeles federal court, alleges that 66-year-old Ridley-Thomas conspired with Marilyn Louise Flynn, 83, formerly a tenured professor and dean of USC's School of Social Work.

  • She allegedly agreed to "provide 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," according to the DOJ.
  • Prosecutors allege that Ridley-Thomas supported contracts involving the USC school — including an amendment to a contract with the Department of Mental Health that would bring the school "millions of dollars in new revenue," the DOJ said.

Of note: "Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was serving in the Assembly at the start of the alleged bribery scheme, which [allegedly] ran from 2017 through 2018," per Politico.

  • "He resigned from that position in December 2017 amid a sexual harassment investigation, citing health problems," the news outlet adds.

What they're saying: Ridley-Thomas could not be immediately reached for comment, but Flynn's attorney Vicki Podberesky told the L.A. Times that her client "has not committed any crime and we believe that the evidence in this case will ultimately support this conclusion."

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