By Ray Richardson
LOS ANGELES – The City Council voted Dec. 7 to reinstate the salary and benefits for suspended Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, ending a nearly 14-month legal battle based on the questionable use of authority by City Controller Ron Galperin.
Ridley-Thomas filed a lawsuit against the city in 2021 after Galperin stripped him of his salary and benefits in response to an indictment filed against Ridley-Thomas for alleged federal fraud charges.
The council voted 10-1 to return approximately $364,573 to Ridley-Thomas, $254,000 in back pay and $99,500 in attorney fees. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell cast the only dissenting vote.
Council President Pro Tem Curren Price has advocated for the restoration of Ridley-Thomas’ salary and benefits. Price and several other City Council members said he was entitled to his salary and benefits until the outcome of his trial, which has been delayed until after the new year.
“Today’s decision by the Los Angeles City Council to reinstate the salary and benefits for Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, that the city controller unilaterally revoked in 2021, corrects an action that should have never been allowed to happen in the first place,” Price said in a statement.
Ridley-Thomas could not be reached for comment.
In a statement, Galperin maintained that his decision was “in accordance with city law.”
“I acted because my job as controller and the taxpayers’ watchdog required it,” Galperin said.
When Galperin made the decision to take Ridley-Thomas’ salary and benefits, he said the move was based on a city employee “should not be paid if they’re not allowed to work.”
Price and City Council President Paul Krekorian filed one of two motions in August to request an inquiry to determine if Galperin acted within his authority. Eighth District Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson filed a similar motion.
Both motions encountered delays when then City Council President Nury Martinez kept the motions in “committee status.” Martinez’s resignation in October for her involvement in the racist taped recording scandal opened the door for the motions to be discussed and ultimately taken to a vote. Krekorian replaced Martinez as City Council president.
Price indicated that results from the inquiry into Galperin’s authority regarding Ridley-Thomas helped justify the council’s action.
“It is clear that the city controller made a rush to judgment without merit,” Price said in his statement. “I’m pleased by the council’s decision to resolve this matter fairly. Councilmember Ridley-Thomas has a right to due process and that should take place in the court of law.”
Ridley-Thomas is charged in a 20-count indictment stemming from allegations that he funneled Los Angeles County funds to USC’s School of Social Work when he was a member of the county Board of Supervisors.
Marilyn Flynn, former dean of the USC program, was indicted with Ridley-Thomas but agreed to a plea bargain in September in exchange for testimony against Ridley-Thomas.
The indictment alleges that Ridley-Thomas donated $100,000 to the USC program in exchange for the admission of his son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, into USC’s graduate school with a full-tuition scholarship.
Ridley-Thomas has denied the charges, which also include allegations of Ridley-Thomas securing county contracts for services provided by USC’s School of Social Work to the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Mental Health.
The alleged influence from Ridley-Thomas with the agencies reportedly would have generated more than a million dollars in added revenue for USC.
Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.