Ridley-Thomas steps back after bribery indictment

Exterior of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.
Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has a doctorate in social ethics from the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, was indicted last week. (Charles McCollum | Daily Trojan file photo)

Los Angeles City Councilmember and USC alumnus Mark Ridley-Thomas announced he will “immediately step back” from full City Council and Committee meetings following his indictment on federal bribery charges last Wednesday, according to a letter sent to his colleagues Monday obtained by the Daily Trojan. 

Ridley-Thomas, who has a doctorate from USC in social ethics, said in the letter he will remain in office and “[has] every intent of fighting these outrageous allegations and [expects] to be fully exonerated.”

“I fully appreciate the importance of the Council being able to conduct its business with minimal distractions,” he wrote in the letter. “With that in mind, and with deep respect for each of you, I write to let you know of my intention to immediately step back from participating in both full Council and Committee meetings.” 

The 20-count indictment filed Wednesday alleges Ridley-Thomas offered bribes to Marilyn Louise Flynn, former Dean of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, allowing Ridley-Thomas’ son, Sebastian, to receive a full-tuition scholarship and work as a professor of practice of policy and social work at USC.

Ridley-Thomas presented motions and agenda items to benefit the University — including establishing a partnership between the County and the School of Social Work — through his position on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, according to court documents.

In a statement to the Daily Trojan last week, Ridley-Thomas’s lawyer Michael J. Proctor said the federal allegations shocked Ridley-Thomas and that he has never used his position for political gain.

“Ridley-Thomas has been in public service for thirty years, and his actions have been open to public scrutiny for a full three decades,” Proctor wrote. “Over those thirty years, he has demonstrated the quality of his character. We ask you to allow due process to take its course.”

Since his indictment last Wednesday, multiple City Councilmembers said Ridley-Thomas should either step-down or take a step back from his duties. 

“I am shocked, saddened, and disgusted by the Federal bribery charges against Mark Ridley-Thomas,” City Councilmember Joe Buscaino wrote on Twitter. “These charges tarnish the reputation of the entire LA City Council, and because of that, Ridley-Thomas should immediately step down from his position.”

Growing up in South Central, Ridley-Thomas was elected to represent City Council District 8 — which encompasses his hometown — in 1991, where he served until 2002. Later, he served in the California State Assembly, California State Senate and L.A. Board of Supervisors.

Ridley-Thomas will be arraigned Wednesday in Downtown. 

Correction: A previous version of this article implied that court documents allege Ridley-Thomas accepted bribes in exchange for his son’s full-tuition scholarship and position as a professor of practice of policy and social work at USC. Court documents allege Ridley-Thomas guided public funds to the University in exchange for his son’s scholarship and position at USC. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.