Members of the Los Angeles City Council continue to question whether City Controller Ron Galperin had the legal authority to cut Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ pay and benefits after Ridley-Thomas was suspended from the council last year, with the latest motion filed Tuesday by Councilman Curren Price.
Ridley-Thomas was suspended in October after his indictment in a federal corruption case. Galperin then suspended Ridley-Thomas’ pay, claiming that he “could 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.”
Price’s motion on Tuesday, seconded by Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, asks City Attorney Mike Feuer to report to the council within 10 days on whether Galperin could legally suspend Ridley-Thomas’ pay.
The motion claims that Ridley-Thomas is suffering an “extreme personal financial burden … especially if ultimately the litigation is resolved with exoneration.”
“We need quick action by the City Attorney to opine as to the legality of the Controller’s action to withhold salary payments,” the motion reads.
Ridley-Thomas sued the city and Galperin last month, seeking a ruling to strike down the decision as unlawful, along with attorneys’ fees.
Chelsea Lucktenberg, Galperin’s acting director of communications, declined comment, citing matters related to pending litigation.
Ridley-Thomas’ lawyer, Crystal Nix-Hines, said the councilman welcomes the motion.
“Although we are prepared to demonstrate in court that the controller had no legal basis for his actions, it would be far better for the council to rectify this abuse of authority and immediately restore Councilmember Ridley-Thomas’s compensation,” Nix-Hines said in a statement.
Last week, Council Members Paul Krekorian and Gil Cedillo signed onto a motion requesting the city attorney to report back within 30 days on the controller’s legal authority on suspending the pay of a city employee, along with the council’s options if it disagrees with a decision made by the controller.
Krekorian’s motion claims that if such an ability is within the controller’s purview, “there is real risk that a future controller might stop paying public employees” if the employee doesn’t conform to the controller’s subjective view of what their “duty” should be.
A spokesperson for Galperin said at the time that the city charter allows the controller to stop salary payments when a public employee is “not devoting their time to their duties,” according to Krekorian’s motion.
While Ridley-Thomas is suspended, District 10 does not currently have a vote in the council.
Herb Wesson, who was appointed to act as Ridley-Thomas’ temporary replacement, was blocked from representing the district after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel issued a temporary restraining order on July 19 preventing Wesson from performing any council functions.