LOS ANGELES — After growing up near a thriving Leimert Park, Donna Jones has been looking forward to its revival.
It’s a major reason Jones voted for Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas to represent her on the Los Angeles City Council, believing he would be a champion for the community.
What You Need To Know
- LA City Council suspended Mark Ridley-Thomas shortly after he was indicted on federal bribery and corruption charges stemming from his time on the Board of Supervisors
- Council President Nury Martinez appointed a caretaker to his seat that can respond to constituents but cannot vote
- Ridley-Thomas' supporters say they deserve a say in city issues, even while he fights the charges
- Ridley-Thomas' trial is scheduled for December
“He’s from the community, he knows about us, he was a part of those times when we didn’t even have half of what we have now,” Jones said.
Jones is among a group of outraged constituents who say they’ve been disenfranchised after City Council swiftly suspended Ridley-Thomas in October, days after a federal indictment revealed he’s facing federal bribery and corruption charges.
The charges stem from Ridley-Thomas' time on the powerful LA County Board of Supervisors, where he is accused of conspiring with a USC Dean to secure his son a full scholarship and paid professorship in exchange for arranging lucrative county contracts with the Department of Children and Family Services, the Probation Department, and the Department of Mental Health.
Last week, Council President Nury Martinez appointed a “caretaker” to the seat who can respond to constituents but doesn't have voting power on the council. Ridley-Thomas is scheduled to go to trial in December. If he is successful in fighting the charges, he could be swiftly reinstated. If he’s not, then the council will move forward with either appointing his successor or scheduling a special election.
Meanwhile, supporters like Jones describe the suspension as a “rush to judgement.”
"They should realize they made a mistake and fix it," Jones said. "You cannot disenfranchise a whole group of people and leave us hanging."
Ridley-Thomas received several rounds of applause at a screening of the movie "Selma" on Wednesday, his first public appearance since the indictment and suspension. The event was organized by community members and clergy who support Ridley-Thomas’ reinstatement to the council.
Ridley-Thomas declined to answer questions from a Spectrum News 1 reporter who approached him at the event, but a lawyer for Ridley-Thomas said they believe he should be reinstated while he fights the charges.
“I don’t lose in court very often, so I am optimistic,” John Sweeney said.
Back in Leimert Park, Jones noted that they’ve lost representation at a key moment, when the council will vote on a new redistricting map, drawing the lines of power at City Hall for the next 10 years.
Jones feels her councilman isn’t the only one being punished prematurely, but also the residents he represents.