/Ridley-Thomas’ convictions dictate his removal from the council

Ridley-Thomas’ convictions dictate his removal from the council

The felony convictions of veteran Los Angeles politician Mark Ridley-Thomas bring fresh shockwaves to a City Council that had been settling into relative normalcy after months of turmoil.

For 17 long months, Ridley-Thomas had been in something of a limbo: suspended from the City Council but not permanently removed. But after five days of deliberation, the jury found Ridley-Thomas guilty on federal corruption charges Thursday, an outcome that leads to his removal from the council. by the city charter.

The permanent removal of Ridley-Thomas means that City Council District 10 will once again be without a voting representative, at least for the time being.

Had Ridley-Thomas been acquitted, he would have returned to his seat at the conclusion of the trial, replacing the acting councilor Heather Hutt. But Hutt was appointed only to fill a “temporary vacancy” — a status that no longer applies since Ridley-Thomas’s conviction makes the vacancy no longer temporary.

The City Council is likely to reappoint Hutt to serve as a voting member of the council for the remainder of Ridley-Thomas’ term, which runs through December 2024. She could also choose to hold a special election and reposition the decision in the hands of the voters. .

If no one is appointed to serve as a voting member of the council, council president Paul Krekorian could still appoint Hutt or someone else to serve as caretaker of the non-voting seat, as Hutt did briefly last summer before his appointment to the council.

The 10th District seat had already been subject to something of a roller coaster in the year and a half since Ridley-Thomas was suspended.

Prior to Hutt’s appointment, the board appointed former board chairman Herb Wesson to return as Ridley-Thomas’ interim replacement in early 2022. Legal objections prevailed, and a judge sidelined Wesson in July, leaving it sparked a contentious fight in council over the immediate future of the district before Hutt was finally appointed.

hutt launched his campaign earlier this month to represent District 10 after the 2024 election, though it’s unclear if she’ll be able to run as an unelected incumbent.

Ridley-Thomas’ conviction, which stems from actions taken while he served on the County Board of Supervisors, not City Council, follows that of two other recent council members, José Huizar and Mitchell Englander.

Huizar pleaded guilty in January to racketeering and tax evasion charges and admitted to extorting at least $1.5 million in bribes from real estate developers.

Englander was convicted in a sprawling city hall corruption case in 2020, admitting he conspired to keep federal investigators from learning about cash and other gifts he received from a Southern California businessman.

Times Staff Writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.