Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — The City Council is seeking a report from the city attorney on whether City Controller Ron Galperin had the legal authority to cut Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ pay and benefits after Ridley-Thomas was suspended from the council last year.
Ridley-Thomas was suspended in October 2021 after his indictment in a federal corruption case. Galperin then suspended Ridley-Thomas’ pay, claiming that he “could not use city money to pay the salary of an elected official facing federal bribery and fraud charges who is now legally unable to do his job.” Ridley-Thomas has pleaded not guilty.
The council asked the city attorney to report to the council within 10 days on whether Galperin could legally suspend Ridley-Thomas’ pay.
The motion, filed in August by Councilman Curren Price, claims that Ridley-Thomas is suffering an “extreme personal financial burden … especially if ultimately the litigation is resolved with exoneration.”
“We need quick action by the city attorney to opine as to the legality of the controller’s action to withhold salary payments,” the motion reads.
Chelsea Lucktenberg, Galperin’s acting director of communications, declined comment, citing pending litigation.
Several public speakers, including pastors, were in support of returning Ridley-Thomas’ pay, telling the council at the Oct. 28 meeting that they believed Galperin acted unjustly.
“A person is innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent,” said William Epps, a pastor at the Second Baptist Church. “I think that the action that was taken dubbed him as being guilty, and he has to prove his innocence. And that’s not the way due process works.”
Ridley-Thomas sued the city and Galperin in July, seeking a ruling to strike down the decision as unlawful, along with attorneys’ fees.
“Fairness has not been issued,” said Eddie Anderson, a pastor at McCarty Memorial Christian Church. “Fairness has not been heard. To take a man’s salary, to take a man’s benefits in the middle of a pandemic when he is in a high-risk category is not fair.”
Ridley-Thomas’ lawyer, Crystal Nix-Hines, said when the motion was filed that the councilman welcomed the council’s input.
“Although we are prepared to demonstrate in court that the controller had no legal basis for his actions, it would be far better for the council to rectify this abuse of authority and immediately restore Councilmember Ridley-Thomas’s compensation,” Nix-Hines said in a statement.
The council discussed Ridley-Thomas’ lawsuit in closed session Oct. 28.
The 10th District is currently being represented by interim Councilwoman Heather Hutt, who was appointed by the council to the seat in September. Prior to that, Hutt was serving as a caretaker while Herb Wesson — who was originally appointed to fill in during Ridley-Thomas’ suspension — was legally barred from performing his duties on the council and eventually had to resign.