Two Los Angeles City Council members are seeking clarity on whether 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, according to a motion filed Wednesday by Paul Krekorian that was seconded by Gil Cedillo.
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.”
Ridley-Thomas sued the city and Galperin last week, seeking a ruling to strike down the decision as unlawful, along with attorneys’ fees.
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 the motion.
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.
Chelsea Lucktenberg, Galperin’s acting director of communications, declined comment on the motion Wednesday, citing matters related to pending litigation.
The motion requested the city attorney to report back within 30 days on the city 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.
The council did not discuss whether to cut Ridley-Thomas’ salary and benefits. The motion claims the council should be able to evaluate whether Galperin had the legal authority to act unilaterally to make the decision.
The motion also warns of the potential for abuse if the controller “seeks to pursue a political agenda” against a particular public official.
Ridley-Thomas’ lawsuit claims that Galperin acted unilaterally to cut Ridley-Thomas’ pay and did so to help his campaign for state controller earlier this year. Galperin finished fifth in the field of six.