(CN) — The Los Angeles City Council voted to suspend Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was slated to be arraigned on a slew of bribery charges Wednesday afternoon in federal court.
The council voted 11-3 on Wednesday and the Controller of Los Angeles, Ron Galperin, said he would immediately suspend Ridley-Thomas’s bi-weekly checks of approximately $8,000.
“While Ridley-Thomas has had many years of honorable public service, I will not use City money to pay the salary of an elected official facing federal bribery and fraud charges who is now legally unable to do his job,” Galperin said. “The people of Los Angeles deserve better from their government leaders.”
Ridley-Thomas released a statement in the wake of the vote to suspend him from his council duties, thanking those who supported him and accusing others of a rush to judgment.
“Eleven members of this Council have stripped the constituents of the 10th District of their representation, of their voice and of their right to the services that they deserve,” Ridley-Thomas said before adding he will fight to clear his name. “They have removed from action a member — and his team — who together are among the most productive and effective advocates on the crisis of homelessness.”
Ridley-Thomas is accused of engaging in a bribery scheme while a Los Angeles County Supervisor involving Marilyn Louise Flynn, the former dean of the University of Southern California School of Social Work.
According to the 20-count indictment, Flynn agreed to grant Ridley-Thomas’s son admission to the graduate school, a fully paid scholarship and a paid professorship. In exchange, Ridley-Thomas agreed to steer lucrative contracts to the School of Social Work, which was dealing with a budget crunch at the time, according to the indictment.
The school stood to bring in millions of dollars in revenue thanks to the new contracts, according to the unsealed indictment.
Ridley-Thomas has denied all wrongdoing and his lawyer, Michael Proctor, said his client will be vindicated.
“While some have rushed to judgment, perhaps for political gain, we all win when we afford our brother and sisters the constitutional entitlement to the presumption of innocence,” the statement read.
Ridley-Thomas’s former colleagues have launched an independent investigation, as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have enlisted an outside investigative firm to look into how the contracts were distributed in connection with Ridley-Thomas’s role.
“The motion is about restoring trust," Supervisor Hilda Solis said when the vote was taken. "Transparency and accountability are values that should never be compromised."
Ridley-Thomas said he will not resign from the city council despite calls from some colleagues to do so. He was conspicuously absent from the council meeting held Tuesday.
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