Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas reached a settlement with the City of Los Angeles this week restoring his full salary and benefits retroactive to when City Controller Ron Galperin terminated them.
Ridley-Thomas filed suit on July 28. The city has denied wrongdoing but agreed today to pay him back pay and to restore his pay and benefits, which Galperin terminated following Ridley-Thomas’s suspension from the City Council after an indictment on unrelated federal charges.
Ridley-Thomas has contested the indictment and preparing for in a trial scheduled for March 2023.
The settlement follows the unanimous adoption by the City Council of a motion from now Council President pro Tem Curren Price and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson requiring the city attorney to issue an opinion concerning the legality of Galperin’s unilateral action to withhold salary and benefits to Ridley-Thomas following his Oct. 20, 2021 suspension.
Former President Nury Martinez, who was forced to resign after she was taped making racist remarks, had refused to bring the motion—first introduced in August 2022—to the floor.
“We are pleased that the city, at the urging of the city council, wisely chose to resolve this lawsuit amicably. It is very clear under the city charter that the controller had no authority to terminate the salary and benefits of Councilmember Ridley-Thomas and Controller Galperin did so at a time when Councilmember Ridley-Thomas needed them the most to mount his legal defense,” said Ridley-Thomas’s lawyer Crystal Nix-Hines, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP. “Controller Galperin’s actions are indefensible.”
As detailed in court filings, Galperin, who at the time was a candidate for State Controller, announced his intention to revoke Ridley-Thomas’s salary and benefits on his campaign website the day after the city council’s controversial decision to suspend Ridley-Thomas. The council moved to suspend Ridley-Thomas following a federal indictment alleging bribery and corruption stemming from his service on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors three years earlier.
In October, racially offensive remarks made by Martinez during a recorded meeting that occurred just days before she moved to suspend Ridley-Thomas in what amounts to an administrative leave pending trial.
During the recorded conversation with Councilmembers Kevin De Leon and Gil Cedillo and LA Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, Martinez predicted city officials would revoke Ridley-Thomas’s pay. Martinez failed to prevent or provide direction as the city council’s leader and author of the suspension motion about whether the leave would be paid. This left many members of the council unsettled by this lack of due diligence.
“The Council’s action today to correct the wrongful act by the city controller was long overdue and exposed the actions of a disgraced former city council president that were implemented to damage Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, to disenfranchise Council District 10 voters and to exploit ambiguities in the City Charter for her own politically motivated reasons,” added Rev. Norman S. Johnson, convener of the South Los Angeles Clergy for Public Accountability.
“While we appreciate resolution of the Ridley-Thomas compensation issue, inspired by the leadership of Council President Paul Krekorian and President Pro Tempore Curren Price, there is still more work to be done to repair the council’s reputation which has been seriously damaged by the lack of transparency, poor judgment and leadership that values accountability, democracy and adherence to the rule of law,” he said.