Leaders of five national civil rights organizations including the National Urban League, National Action Network, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and the NAACP called upon the City of Los Angeles to rectify what they termed a “gross injustice” to Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas in a three-page letter to the acting Council President Mitch O’Farrell. The letter, signed by the Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Derrick Johnson, Charles Steele, Jr., and Marc Morial, calls on the Council to expedite restoration of Ridley-Thomas’ pay and benefits.
The letter was forwarded this week following revelations caught on an audio recording of a private meeting which took place between three councilmembers, including then Council President Nury Martinez, and an influential Latino labor leader. Days after the secretly taped conversation, Martinez authored a motion to suspend Ridley-Thomas but remained silent on the issue of compensation, providing both City Controller Ron Galperin and LA City Attorney Mike Feuer discretion over Ridley-Thomas pay. Both Feuer and Galperin were candidates for higher office at the time.
“[T]he Martinez recording validates our belief that the original…motion she authored to suspend Councilmember Ridley-Thomas formed the basis for revocation of his pay and benefits by the City Controller, including health care insurance, during a once-in-a-century pandemic.” The letter went on to say that the “haste with which the motion was considered ensured that there was no substantive opportunity by the Council to obtain public input into the decision through testimony. [T]he matter appears to have been deliberately left to the discretion of the Controller.”
While suspended, Councilmember Ridley-Thomas is restricted by the City Charter from pursuing other means of employment while he or any other member of the City Council holds office.
According to the City Charter, it does not mandate or require suspension of a Councilmember. Ironically, the allegations of criminal wrongdoing against Ridley-Thomas occurred while he was serving as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, years before he was elected to the City Council.
“There was no evidence publicly available at the time the motion was considered to suggest that Councilmember Ridley-Thomas received any direct benefit associated with the charges against him. The Council’s decision was made with no evidentiary hearing…no investigative research into the matter by the Council…no alternatives to suspension were considered. With the release of the Martinez recordings, there is ample evidence that Ridley-Thomas’ suspension and the consequences…were motivated by other considerations. We strongly urge you to remedy this blatant violation of civil rights and due process in lieu of our having to press further on this time sensitive matter,” the letter concluded.
In the aftermath of the release of those explosively racist tapes, Nury Martinez was forced to step down from the Presidency and then she resigned her position as Councilmember on Wednesday, October 12, 2022.
On the following Tuesday, October 18, 2022, Councilmember Paul Krekorian was unanimously elected President of the Council. On Wednesday, October 19, 2022 while appearing on KBLA 1580 with Tavis Smiley, when asked about the two pending motions on MRT’s compensation and benefits, Council President Krekorian said, “Because there’s a legal claim involved, I can’t get into too much detail…” And then he promised, “I will ensure that my motion to have [the MRT compensation issue] reported back to the Council and it will be expedited. So that we can ensure we are doing the right thing, according to the law.”