LA LAW - These were not victimless crimes. You can see the victimization in the faces of the people of the Second Supervisorial District, who were sold a $10 million bill of goods by the organization who bought Mark Ridley-Thomas his seat: the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor(County Fed). In situations such as these, it is important not to just look at the here and now— but how this all started.
In 2008, the County Fed spent a lot of that $10 million falsely attacking my character. It’s ironic now that many of the illegalities they accused me of, pale in comparison to the seven felony counts currently hanging over Ridley-Thomas’s head. It looks like former County Fed boss, Maria Elena Durazo targeted those hate-filled ads on the wrong candidate. I hope she got a receipt.
Based on how he ascended to the Board of Supervisors, there was very little doubt— at least to those paying attention— how things would go. It was simple. If the County Fed wanted something, Ridley-Thomas would give it to them; regardless of whether or not it negatively affected the people in his district or the county on the whole. It’s how one acts when there is a $10 million price tag hanging from his ass.
It’s hard to imagine that Ridley-Thomas would ever change his act— no matter who approached him. After all, it did win him an election. And, therefore, it’s also hard to imagine that these charges were his first illegal acts. It’s likely just the first time he got caught. Judging by the sophistication of his corrupt operation with the University of Southern California and various close calls from his past, this was not a first-time offense.
For those claiming that things like “bribery” aren’t that big a deal, let me break it down to you: If a public official accepts a bribe, what he or she is saying to you is that your interests and their advocacy for those interests is negotiable. It just depends on the price. So, you can trust and believe there are countless untold stories of woe from folks who didn’t pay up for the Ridley-Thomas premium package because they already had HULU.
Our city is still recovering from the convictions of former Councilmembers Jose Huizar, Mitch Englander, former DWP General Manager David Wright and former City Attorney’s Office official Thomas Peters. And meanwhile, the criminal trial of former Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan and the federal search warrants on Council Districts Nine and 10 remain unresolved. There’s also been the corrupt 2011-2012 redistricting process, where another County Fed favorite Herb Wesson gifted downtown to Huizar, which led to his indictment. It makes sense now that years ago, the University of Illinois declared that L.A. was the second most corrupt city behind Chicago; a town that once urged its residents to vote early… and often.
If that weren’t enough, just last year, controversial recordings revealed that three councilmembers and an LA County Fed leader were meeting to discuss how to impose their will on the redistricting process and, among other things, how to pick the black faces they liked the best. Their picking and propping up of various black electeds whom they felt would be more submissive to their goals is no different than how the County Fed selected Ridley-Thomas in our race in 2008. If this was the story “Goldilocks & Three Little Bears”, just think of me as the porridge that was “too hot” and Ridley- Thomas as the porridge that was, “juuuust right”.
Mark Ridley-Thomas was not indicted because he’s black or because he was too successful. He was indicted and convicted because he committed several serious felony crimes. I’ll be 80 this year, and I’ve been black my whole life. That means I know at least 80 years’ worth of black people. Of all the black people I know, I would say that probably less than 1% of them have been indicted. In that group of less than 1%, I would say that the overwhelming majority were government employees. The remaining indictees whom I know… I probably arrested. The point is that it’s pretty difficult to get indicted. It’s something you really have to work at. And, if you get good at it, it finally happens. Ridley-Thomas was indicted and convicted because he (1.) exchanged his duty of public service for his obsession with self-interest and (2.) is arrogant and believes he is entitled. And, you don’t have to look too far to find a bunch of entitled and arrogant people of all colors in our prison system. So, it seems like a match to me.
It’s important to note that Ridley-Thomas does have some accomplishments, as he should after being in public life for decades. And, this conviction does not diminish those. But, his legacy is tarnished and diminished. Due to his new designation as a convicted felon, he will now be remembered as a politician who did his job sufficiently — but only when he wasn’t stealing from the public. It’s as simple as iconic retired Supervisor Gloria Molina said recently, “Don’t be corrupt.”
(Bernard Parks is a former LA Chief of Police and LA City Councilmember.)