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Indicted LA councilmember sues city over terminated pay and benefits

The longtime LA politician claims the city controller overstepped his authority when he suspended his biweekly $8,000 paychecks.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — LA City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was indicted last year on federal corruption charges, sued the city because his salary and benefits were terminated after the council suspended him because of his indictment.

Ridley-Thomas, who has denied wrongdoing, seeks a court order that Controller Ron Galperin and the city of Los Angeles violated the city charter by depriving him of his salary and benefits without, he alleges, any legal authority supporting that decision.

"Defendants’ illegal action was wrong then, it remains wrong now, and only an order from this court will undo such a flagrant abuse of authority," Ridley-Thomas said in a complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The veteran LA politician was charged with participating in a bribery scheme while he served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, with the dean of the School of Social Work at University of Southern California. According to prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office in LA, a relative of Ridley-Thomas who turned out to be his son, received admission to the graduate school, a full-tuition scholarship, a paid professorship, as well as a mechanism to funnel Ridley-Thomas campaign funds through the university to a non-profit to be operated by the relative.

In exchange, according to the indictment, Ridley-Thomas supported contracts involving the Social Work School, including contracts to provide services to the Department of Children and Family Services and Probation Department, as well as an amendment to a contract with the Department of Mental Health that would bring the school millions of dollars in new revenue.

Shortly after his indictment, the city council voted to suspend Ridley-Thomas and Galperin said he would immediately suspend his biweekly checks of approximately $8,000.

"Not only did Mr. Galperin take this unilateral action to further his own political interests, but he did so without any authorization in the City Charter," according to Ridley-Thomas's complaint. "His carefully enumerated and prescribed duties under the Charter do not include authority to terminate salary and benefits. Mr. Galperin thus exceeded the scope of his enumerated powers."

A spokesman for the LA city attorney said the office will review the complaint and had no comment at this time.

Ridley-Thomas’ trial is currently scheduled to start Nov. 15. Meanwhile, a nonprofit he formerly ran has sued to have him reinstated to the city council and to block a temporary replacement from taking his seat. A state court judge earlier this month temporarily barred Herb Wesson, the temporary replacement, from “performing any functions of a council member,” the second such ruling in five months.

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Categories / Criminal, Employment, Government, Politics

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