L.A. County supervisors may order audit to examine Mark Ridley-Thomas bribery charges

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LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 21: Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas listens to LA City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, not pictured, speak at a ground-breaking ceremony of the SEED School of Los Angeles County (SEED LA), the Vermont Manchester Transit Priority Project on property acquired through eminent domain in 2018 Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. LA County, Metro and their partners are kicking off the first phase of the development: the SEED School of Los Angeles County (SEED LA), the state's first public boarding high school. The second phase will include building 180 affordable apartments, a Metro Job and Innovation Center and community-serving retail stores. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
After Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, a former L.A. County supervisor, was indicted this week, his former colleagues on the county board are calling for an audit of contracts implicated in the indictment. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Two Los Angeles County supervisors are calling for an independent investigation into federal criminal charges against their former colleague Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is accused of taking bribes from a USC dean in exchange for lucrative county contracts.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will consider a motion to hire an outside law firm for the investigation, which would focus on both the allegations against Ridley-Thomas and "the associated county processes and policies."

The proposed motion, written by board chair Hilda L. Solis and Supervisor Kathryn Barger, requires the law firm to retain a forensic auditor.

Ridley-Thomas, 66, one of the most powerful figures in Los Angeles politics, now serves on the L.A. City Council.

In a 20-count indictment, he and Marilyn Louise Flynn, a former dean of USC's School of Social Work, face charges of conspiracy, bribery and mail and wire fraud.

“Public servants who engage in corruption are a serious threat to our democracy," Solis said in a statement. "The alleged pay-to-play tactics that benefited Councilmember Ridley-Thomas and his family were at the expense of putting the needs of his vulnerable constituency at the forefront."

Prosecutors accuse Ridley-Thomas of conspiring with Flynn beginning in 2017, when he was board chair, to steer county contracts to USC in return for admitting his son Sebastian into the social work school with a full-tuition scholarship and a paid professorship.

In exchange, Ridley-Thomas allegedly ensured that the social work school received millions of dollars in contracts with the county Department of Children and Family Services, Probation Department and Department of Mental Health.

Ridley-Thomas has denied the allegations and said he "has no intention of resigning" from the City Council.

"Going forward, I intend to do two things: disprove the allegations leveled at me and continue the work I was elected to do — most importantly, addressing the homeless and housing crisis," he said in a statement on Friday.

Barger, who has worked at the county for more than 30 years, said in a statement that Ridley-Thomas' alleged behavior "is an anomaly."

“The accusations against Mark Ridley-Thomas force me to call into question what happened during his time in office," Barger said. "This requires a thorough and independent audit to identify any questionable contracts and pursue proper legal actions to recover taxpayer funds as appropriate."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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