Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti did not mince words when it came to the alleged corruption scheme that led to the federal indictment of Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas on Wednesday.
A former USC dean and Ridley-Thomas, who was then serving on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, are accused of exchanging county contracts for benefits for a relative of Ridley-Thomas, who reportedly is his son.
On Thursday, Garcetti called for accountability if Ridley-Thomas is convicted.
“While I’ve witnessed things that Mr. Ridley-Thomas has done that are extraordinary in the community, too, if serious, this has no place in local service. He should be prepared to pay the price,” Garcetti said.
Ridley-Thomas’ attorney, Michael J. Proctor, said in a statement that his client was “shocked by the federal allegations leveled against him, and with good reason.”
“They are wrong, and we look forward to disproving them,” Proctor said. “At no point in his career as an elected official — not as a member of the City Council, the State Legislature, or the Board of Supervisors — has he abused his position for personal gain. Mark Ridley-Thomas has been in public service for 30 years, and his actions have been open to public scrutiny for a full three decades. Over those 30 years, he has demonstrated the quality of his character. We ask you to allow due process to take its course.”
Ridley-Thomas isn’t the first L.A. City Council member to face a criminal investigation.
Former Councilman Mitch Englander is serving 14 months in prison in corruption charges, and former City Councilman Jose Huizar is also facing federal charges.
Like many of his constituents, Garcetti said he has “the same confidence shaken whenever this happens.”
“It makes me sick to my stomach, and I hope that there are swift consequences, and that that sets the example that you will get caught. You will get caught if you betray the public’s trust. If you take the public’s money and use it in a way you’re not supposed to, there will be consequences,” Garcetti said. “So today I’m not a mayor. I’m an outraged Angeleno, if these accusations are correct.”
Garcetti was not the only public official to comment on Ridley-Thomas’ indictment.
In a statement, Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Ridley-Thomas’ former colleague on the Board of Supervisors, noted that he is “innocent until proven guilty.”
“I will be deeply disappointed if these allegations are true,” she said.
City Council President Nury Martinez added in a statement that she was “disappointed” by the news of the charges.
“While the alleged crimes took place while Mr. Ridley-Thomas sat on the Board of Supervisors, these charges are serious and the Council will need to take appropriate action,” Martinez said.
Ridley-Thomas and Marilyn Louise Flynn, a former tenured professor and the dean of the USC School of Social Work, face one charge each of conspiracy and bribery, as well as multiple counts of mail and wire fraud.
Each conspiracy count could result in up to five years in federal prison, while each bribery count carries a maximum of 10 years in federal prison, according to a release from federal prosecutors. Each fraud charge could result in up to 20 years in prison, the release added.