Council District 10 residents continue to languish without representation as its elected member faces federal trial
LOS ANGELES – A temporary restraining order barring Herb Wesson from performing any official Los Angeles City Council duties in place of suspended Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas will remain in place for now, while a judge Wednesday considers whether to issue a preliminary injunction.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff heard arguments on the issue Wednesday morning, but took the matter under submission, saying only that he’ll rule shortly. It was unclear when that might happen.
A coalition of residents and local nonprofit challenged the legality of Wesson’s appointment as a temporary replacement for Ridley-Thomas, saying he is termed out of service due to his previous time on the council. Wesson represented the 10th District from 2005 through 2020, serving as council president from 2012 to 2020. The group also challenges the legality of the council’s suspension of Ridley-Thomas.
Ridley-Thomas was suspended from the council last October, following his federal indictment on corruption charges.
In February, a different judge, Mary Strobel, issued a temporary restraining order barring Wesson from serving on the council. But she later vacated that order and declined to issue a preliminary injunction, saying that procedurally, the petitioners needed to obtain permission from the state Attorney General’s Office to proceed with its legal challenge.
As a result, Wesson began serving on the council in mid-March. In June, however, the Attorney General’s Office cleared the way for the coalition to proceed with its court challenge, opining that there were legitimate questions about whether Wesson’s appointment was legal.
Last month, Strobel issued another temporary restraining order, barring Wesson from performing any council duties, although not specifically removing him from the office. Earlier this month, Strobel recused herself from the case, saying she worked on a city commission in 1999 that recommended changes to the City Charter — changes that are being referenced in the city’s opposition to the SCLC’s challenge to Wesson’s appointment.
That led to the case being transferred to Beckloff, who held his first hearing on the matter Wednesday.
Council President Nury Martinez appointed current CD 10 chief of staff Heather Hutt as caretaker of the district but also with no voting authority.
Residents continue to have no representation on the council while Ridley-Thomas uses paid operatives to help him regain his salary.
Attorneys for the city have argued against the restraining order, saying in part that there was no urgency for such a ruling — as noted by the SCLC’s decision to wait roughly a month after the attorney general’s ruling to even seek an injunction. City attorneys also claimed that the restraining order would do nothing to address the primary allegation that the City Council had no authority to suspend Ridley-Thomas.
The City also suspended former Councilman Jose Huizar when he was brought up on federal charges as well. They have followed the same pattern in suspension and Controller Ron Galperin also terminated Huizar’s salary and benefits as he did with Ridley-Thomas who alleges it was a “political stunt” of sorts because he was running for office.
The motion to appoint Wesson as a temporary replacement was unanimously approved by the council on Feb. 22. According to the appointment, Wesson is supposed to hold the position through Dec. 31 unless Ridley-Thomas is acquitted or the charges against him are dropped.
Ridley-Thomas has a pattern of leaving residents without representation for his own personal reasons. He previously left minority students without a voting member on the Los Angeles Unified School District where it was alleged he exchanged votes for campaign donations to his school board candidate Alex Johnson after the passing of Marguerite Lamotte Poindexter in 2013.
City News Service contributed to this report.