Mark Ridley-Thomas

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Mark Ridley-Thomas
Mark Ridley-Thomas 2008.jpg
Member of the Los Angeles City Council
In office
December 14, 2020 – present (suspended since October 20, 2021)
Preceded byHerb Wesson
Succeeded byvacant
Constituency10th district
In office
July 1, 1991 – December 1, 2002
Preceded byRobert C. Farrell
Succeeded byBernard Parks
Constituency8th district
Member of the
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
from the 2nd District
In office
December 1, 2008 – December 6, 2020
Preceded byYvonne Brathwaite Burke
Succeeded byHolly Mitchell
Member of the California State Senate
from the 26th district
In office
December 4, 2006 – November 30, 2008
Preceded byKevin Murray
Succeeded byCurren D. Price Jr.
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 48th district
In office
December 2, 2002 – November 30, 2006
Preceded byRoderick Wright
Succeeded byMike Davis
Personal details
Mark Thomas

(1954-11-06) November 6, 1954 (age 67)
Los Angeles, California
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Avis Ridley-Thomas
ChildrenSebastian and Sinclair Ridley-Thomas
ResidenceLos Angeles County, California
Alma materImmaculate Heart College
University of Southern California

Mark Ridley-Thomas is an American politician and a currently-suspended member of the Los Angeles City Council for the 10th district. He previously served three terms on the Council from the 8th district from 1991 to 2002. Ridley-Thomas was indicted on federal corruption charges on October 13, 2021.[1]

Ridley-Thomas previously served as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for the 2nd Supervisorial District from 2008 to 2020, a California State Senator representing the 26th district from 2006 to 2008, and was a California State Assemblyman representing the 48th district from 2002 until 2006. He was Chairman of the Assembly Democratic Caucus.

Personal life and education[edit]

Ridley-Thomas is a graduate of Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles and earned a baccalaureate degree in Social Relations and a master's degree in Religious Studies from Immaculate Heart College. Ridley-Thomas went on to earn a Ph.D. in Social Ethics and Policy Analysis from the University of Southern California (1989).[2]

After a brief stint as a high-school teacher, Ridley-Thomas served for a decade as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles (1981–1991). During that period he also hosted a public affairs program on Pacifica Radio station KPFK-FM in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles City Council (1991–2002; 2020–present)[edit]

Ridley-Thomas served the first of three terms on the Los Angeles City Council, beginning in 1991, representing the city's 8th Council District. During his tenure on the council, he created the Eighth District Empowerment Congress. He founded the African American Voter Registration, Education, and Participation (AAVREP) in 2002, the largest organized effort to register African American and urban voters in the state of California in more than a decade.[3] He was also the president pro tem of the council.[4]

Thomas was elected to a fourth 4-year term on the Los Angeles City Council in Council District 10 in the November 3, 2020 election.[5] On October 18, 2021 Ridley Thomas announced that he is stepping back from his duties in order to fight charges of corruption, and two days later, the Los Angeles city council formally voted to suspend him from his duties.[6][7]

California State Assembly (2002–2006)[edit]

Ridley-Thomas would have been forced to leave the council in 2003 because of city term limits that prevented him from running for reelection, so he chose instead to run for a seat in the California State Assembly representing California's 48th district.[8] In his 2002 election, he defeated his Republican opponent, Gerard T. Robinson, with more than 80% of the vote.[9] In the Assembly, Ridley-Thomas served as chair of the Democratic caucus and was a major proponent of efforts to encourage an NFL team to move to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which is located in his district.[10] He also sponsored a law that aided redevelopment in Exposition Park as part of a failed effort to attract a team. In the Assembly, Ridley-Thomas, as chairman of the Select Committee on the Los Angeles County Health Care Crisis, was a leader in addressing the problems facing the hospitals and health care system of Los Angeles, sponsoring a bill that would create the Office of Inspector General in an effort to detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in government agencies.[11]

California State Senate (2006–2008)[edit]

In 2006, Ridley-Thomas announced that he was running for the California State Senate, vying for the 26th Senate district seat being vacated by term-limited Senator Kevin Murray. He defeated his opponent in the Democratic primary, Marvin C. McCoy, with more than 87% of the vote[12] and faced no Republican opposition in the general election. In the Senate, Ridley-Thomas joined with a group of lawmakers who introduced a package of legislation designed to crack down on gang violence by allowing city and county prosecutors to employ tougher sentencing measures and increase asset forfeitures against gang members, authoring a bill which would make it easier for law enforcement officials to deal with racially motivated gang activity.[13] He was also one of the lawmakers who called for tourists to boycott the LAX Hilton because of its efforts to overturn a city ordinance that would grant a living wage to airport-area hotel workers.[14] Ridley-Thomas chaired the Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development and its two subcommittees on Professional Sports and Entertainment, and The Economy, Workforce Preparation and Development. He also served on the Senate Appropriations; Energy, Utilities and Communications; Health; and Public Safety committees.

Los Angeles County Supervisor (2008–2020)[edit]

On October 25, 2007, Ridley-Thomas announced that he would be running for the Second District seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors being vacated by Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke. His most formidable opponent was former LAPD police chief Bernard C. Parks, the member of the Los Angeles City Council who replaced Ridley-Thomas when he was elected to the State Assembly.[15] Ridley-Thomas was endorsed by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party,[16] the area's labor unions (including the law enforcement unions), and numerous elected officials.[17] Ridley-Thomas edged out Parks in the June 3 primary by a margin of 45% to 40%, but since neither candidate received a majority of the vote, the top two candidates advanced to a runoff election in November. Ridley-Thomas won a 62% to 38% victory over Parks. Ridley-Thomas became the first black man ever elected to the Los Angeles County Board.[18]

In 2012 Ridley-Thomas served a second term as Supervisor, due to no opposing candidate in the primary in the June primary.[19]

Term limits was placed on the ballot for 2 terms by a voter inititave, but the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors placed a competing proposal on the ballot for 3 term, side-by-side, which received more votes. Therefore, in March 2015, Ridley-Thomas sought and won his third and last term without any serious opposition.[20]


Korean small business owners[edit]

In the aftermath of the 1992 L.A. riots, Ridley-Thomas sought to prevent convenience stores in South Central from serving alcohol. Many of these stores were Korean owned. He said at the time "We are going to use every means at our disposal to rid our community of these god-awful places of business, the kind of business they do is not good for the community." Korean owners took issue with his stance, claiming this was a case of the city punishing the victims.[21]

Federal corruption indictment and $100,000 donation to USC[edit]

In Spring 2018, Ridley-Thomas' political campaign fund — Mark Ridley-Thomas Committee for a Better L.A. — gave $100,000 to the USC School of Social Work, according to reporting by the LA Times. "After USC received the money, the school's dean, Marilyn Flynn, reached out to Peter Manzo, the chief executive of United Ways of California. She told him USC was sending a $100,000 donation to be put in the account of PRPI, the think tank run by [his son and recently resigned Assemblymember] Sebastian Ridley-Thomas." The Times reported that a "concerned employee went to the university's compliance office in June [2018] and reported "alleged inappropriate financial transactions and agreements" involving [USC Dean of Social Work Marilyn] Flynn and an elected official." After consulting legal counsel, USC administrators subsequently referred the $100,000 donation by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to federal authorities for a criminal investigation.[22]

On October 13, 2021, the United States Attorney for the Central District of California announced that a federal grand jury had indicted Ridley-Thomas and Flynn for "a bribery scheme in which [Sebastian Ridley-Thomas] received substantial benefits from the university in exchange for Ridley-Thomas supporting county contracts and lucrative contract amendments with the university..."[23][1][24]

LACMA funding[edit]

In 2014, while county supervisor, Ridley-Thomas provided a key vote in favor of $125 million in public financing for a controversial[25] redesign of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). This came after a meeting with Michael Lynton, then-CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment and a LACMA trustee, who agreed to have Sony donate $25,000 to AAVREP, the political action committee founded by Ridley-Thomas. Sony's donation was three times larger than for any other California candidate or committee that year, and was understood to be in support of the school board campaign of a Ridley-Thomas protégé. While the funds were solicited and agreed to before the board election, the donation was made one month after the election so that it would not be publicly known during the campaign.[26]

Car washing[edit]

During the 2015 California drought, Ridley-Thomas ordered one of his two county-provided black luxury cars (Chrysler 300 limited) to be washed 2 times a week. After Governor Jerry Brown's April mandate ordered a 25% reduction in urban water use, Ridley-Thomas increased the frequency of his sedan washing to over 3 times a week, while maintaining a wash schedule of 2.9 times per week for the second Chrysler sedan he maintains, more than any other county supervisor.[27]

$25,000 "Who's Who" listing[edit]

In 2010 Ridley-Thomas spent $25,000 of taxpayers' money to place himself and fourteen other county officials in the Who's Who edition of black Los Angeles.[28]

Oil and gas campaign contributions[edit]

In his 2020 race for Los Angeles City Council, Ridley-Thomas was criticized for his acceptance of donations from the fossil fuel industry.[by whom?] Of the major candidates in the race, Ridley-Thomas was the only one who accepted such donations. These donations included at least one from E&B Natural Resources Management, which operates a drill site in the district.[29] While the other four candidates in the race called for the city to phase out urban oil drilling within 2,500 feet of homes and schools, Ridley-Thomas has opposed the idea of a citywide buffer.[29]


  1. ^ a b Finnegan, Michael (October 13, 2021). "L.A. Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and ex-USC dean indicted on bribery charges". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ Official Biography "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-11-11. Retrieved 2008-09-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ AAVREP website,
  4. ^ Stockstill, Mason. "Council Says Goodbye, Good Luck to Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas." City News Service. November 26, 2002.
  5. ^ Chou, Elizabeth (2020-11-03). "Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas headed for return to LA City Council". LA Daily News.
  6. ^ Wick, Julia; Zahnister, David; Smith, Dakota (October 18, 2021). "Mark Ridley-Thomas will 'step back' from council duties, but not resign". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ Smith, Dakota; Wick, Julia; Oreskes, Benjamin (October 20, 2021). "L.A. City Council votes to suspend Mark Ridley-Thomas amid federal charges". Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ Garza, Mariel. "MEMBER SAYS ADIEU TO COUNCIL." The Daily News of Los Angeles. November 27, 2002.
  9. ^ "Assembly Races." City News Service. November 6, 2002.
  10. ^ Witz, Billy. "BILL COULD HELP COLISEUM'S BID." The Daily News of Los Angeles. September 30, 2004.
  11. ^ "Health Audits." City News Service. May 5, 2005.
  12. ^ City News Service. June 7, 2006.
  13. ^ City News Service. March 15, 2007.
  14. ^ Marroquin, Art. "Lawmakers Call for Tourists to Boycott LAX Hilton in Dispute Over Living Wage." City News Service. April 13, 2007.
  15. ^ :"Ridley-Thomas Announces Run For County Supervisor Seat." City News Service. October 25, 2007.
  16. ^ Renaud, Jean-Paul. "California in Brief | LOS ANGELES; Party endorses Ridley-Thomas." Los Angeles Times. April 10, 2008.
  17. ^ Endorsements. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2008-07-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ Perkins, Robert. "Ridley-Thomas, Parks Heading for Runoff in 2nd District Supervisor Race." City News Service. June 4, 2008.
  19. ^ LA County Board of Supervisors Election Results
  20. ^ Merl, Jean. "Veteran L.A. politicians take formal step toward 2016 supervisor race" Los Angeles Times. March 10, 2015.
  21. ^ "4 Liquor Stores Destroyed in Riots Get OK to Rebuild". Los Angeles Times.
  22. ^ Ryan, Matt Hamilton, Harriet (2 August 2018). "Donation from prominent L.A. politician roils USC, which referred case to federal prosecutors". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  23. ^ "Mark Ridley-Thomas Charged Along with Former University Dean in Federal Grand Jury Indictment Alleging Bribery and Fraud Scheme". United States Department of Justice. October 13, 2021.
  24. ^ "Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas Indicted On Federal Charges Alleging Corruption". CBS Los Angeles (KCBS-TV/KCAL-TV). October 13, 2021.
  25. ^ Giovannini, Joseph (19 April 2019). "People Opposed to the New LACMA Plan Never Stood a Chance". Los Angeles Magazine. Retrieved 2021-06-28.
  26. ^ Faturechi, Robert. "Hacked Sony Emails Reveal Behind-the-Scenes Political Dealings in L.A." ProPublica. Retrieved 2021-06-28.
  27. ^ "What drought? Some L.A. County supervisors have their cars washed 2, 3 times a week". 25 August 2015.
  28. ^ "Who's Who with whose funds?". Los Angeles Times.
  29. ^ a b Alperet-Reyes, Emily; Zahniser, David (February 24, 2020). "Fossil fuel money is toxic for some L.A. council candidates". Los Angeles Times.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Los Angeles City Council
8th District
July 1, 1991 – December 1, 2002
Succeeded by
Preceded by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
2nd District

December 1, 2008 – December 6, 2020
Succeeded by
California Senate
Preceded by California State Senate
26th district

December 4, 2006 – November 30, 2008
Succeeded by
California Assembly
Preceded by California State Assembly
48th District

December 2, 2002 – November 30, 2006
Succeeded by