Former USC School of Social Work dean to plead guilty in federal bribery case Monday

Marilyn Flynn has not been employed by the University since September of 2018. (Charlie McCollum | Daily Trojan file photo)

Former dean of USC’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Marilyn Flynn agreed Thursday to plead guilty to one count of bribery and pay a fine of no less than $150,000 in a federal case involving politician and former member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Prosecutors alleged that during her tenure at USC, Flynn arranged to funnel $100,000 of Ridley-Thomas’ campaign money through USC to a nonprofit managed by his son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, in exchange for his vote on a USC Telehealth services contract amendment that Flynn desired. Flynn is set to plead guilty in court on Monday, and it remains unclear whether she will testify against Ridley-Thomas.

According to a Department of Justice press release Thursday, Flynn and Ridley-Thomas concealed the fact that the $100,000 from Ridley-Thomas was intended for USC’s payment to the nonprofit United Ways of California and Policy, Research & Practice Initiative, knowing that USC would not have approved the payment otherwise.

Prosecutors also alleged that Flynn improperly used a vendor account to process the $100,000 payment to the nonprofits run by Ridley-Thomas’ son. According to the DOJ press release, she did this in order to expedite the payment to meet Ridley-Thomas’ deadline. Since United Ways and PRPI were not providing vendor services for USC, her use of the vendor account violated USC policy, the plea agreement said.

In a statement to the Daily Trojan, the University wrote that after learning about Flynn’s “unethical conduct,” the administration quickly disclosed it to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“USC strongly supports the School of Social Work and the role it plays in training those who serve the public good,” the statement read.

Flynn will face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. According to the press release, prosecutors in the Flynn case have agreed to recommend she satisfy her custodial term with home confinement. They also agreed not to seek a fine of more than $150,000.

According to the University statement, Flynn has not been employed by USC since September of 2018. 

“USC is not a party to the criminal case but respects the judicial process,” the statement read.

Ridley-Thomas was suspended from office pending his trial scheduled for Nov. 15. He pleaded not guilty to one count of bribery, one count of conspiracy, two counts of honest services mail fraud and 15 counts of honest services wire fraud during his time as L.A. County supervisor, according to the press release.