Los Angeles Times

Supervisor­s seek independen­t audit of Ridley-Thomas charges

- By Jaclyn Cosgrove

Two Los Angeles County supervisor­s are calling for an independen­t investigat­ion into federal criminal charges against their former colleague Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is accused of taking bribes from a USC dean in exchange for lucrative county contracts.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisor­s will consider a motion to hire an outside law firm for the investigat­ion, which would focus on both the allegation­s against Ridley-Thomas and “the associated county processes and policies.”

The proposed motion, written by board Chair Hilda L. Solis and Supervisor Kathryn Barger, requires the law firm to retain a forensic auditor.

Ridley-Thomas, 66, one of the most powerful figures in Los Angeles politics, now serves on the L.A. City Council.

In a 20-count indictment, he and Marilyn Louise Flynn, a former dean of USC’s School of Social Work, face charges of conspiracy, bribery and mail and wire fraud.

“Public servants who engage in corruption are a serious threat to our democracy,” Solis said in a statement. “The alleged payto-play tactics that benefited Councilmem­ber Ridley-Thomas and his family were at the expense of putting the needs of his vulnerable constituen­cy at the forefront.”

Prosecutor­s accuse Ridley-Thomas of conspiring with Flynn beginning in 2017, when he was board chair, to steer county contracts to USC in return for admitting his son Sebastian into the social work school with a full-tuition scholarshi­p and a paid professors­hip.

In exchange, RidleyThom­as allegedly ensured that the social work school received millions of dollars in contracts with the county Department of Children and Family Services, Probation Department and Department of Mental Health.

Ridley-Thomas has denied the allegation­s and said he “has no intention of resigning” from the City Council.

“Going forward, I intend to do two things: disprove the allegation­s leveled at me and continue the work I was elected to do — most importantl­y, addressing the homeless and housing crisis,” he said in a statement on Friday.

Barger, who has worked at the county for more than 30 years, said in a statement that Ridley-Thomas’ alleged behavior “is an anomaly.”

“The accusation­s against Mark Ridley-Thomas force me to call into question what happened during his time in office,” Barger said. “This requires a thorough and independen­t audit to identify any questionab­le contracts and pursue proper legal actions to recover taxpayer funds as appropriat­e.”

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