Mark Ridley-Thomas' seat now vacant, council president wants to appoint Heather Hutt

Heather Hutt, who has been filling the District 10 City Council seat on a temporary basis, is -- for the short term, at least -- its "caretaker" following the conviction of now-former Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas on federal corruption charges.

But that caretaker title figures to change in about two weeks following City Council President Paul Krekorian's announcement Thursday night that he wants the council, at its next meeting, to appoint Hutt to fill out the remainder of Ridley-Thomas' unexpired term, which runs until December 2024.

Krekorian's plan -- in which he formally declared the seat vacant -- emerged Thursday evening, hours after a federal jury in downtown Los Angeles convicted Ridley-Thomas of bribery and conspiracy charges, along with mail and wire fraud, stemming from his time on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

The charges stem from what prosecutors called a quid pro quo arrangement between Ridley-Thomas and a former head of the USC School of Social Work, with the politician accused of steering county contracts toward the school in exchange for benefits to Ridley-Thomas' son, former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.

Mark Ridley-Thomas faces years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 14.

"While the federal legal process is continuing, and Mr. Ridley-Thomas may choose to pursue his right to appeal, his office nonetheless has now become vacant as a matter of law as provided by Section 207(a) of the Charter of the City of Los Angeles," Krekorian said in a statement Thursday night.

"While charges against Mr. Ridley-Thomas were pending, the Council appointed Heather Hutt to hold the office of Council member for District 10 `for so long as the temporary vacancy continues to exist.' Because the vacancy of this office is no longer temporary but is now permanent, Ms. Hutt's temporary appointment is no longer in force and the Council must decide what action, if any, to take to address this vacancy."

In the short term, Krekorian said, he has appointed Hutt to serve as caretaker, effective immediately.

Beyond that, he said, his plan is to call on the council, at its next meeting, to appoint Hutt to fill out the remainder of Ridley-Thomas' term. The council is on recess, and is next scheduled to meet on April  11.

"Mark Ridley-Thomas has been convicted of multiple felonies following a trial on charges described in the federal indictment of Oct. 13, 2021," Krekorian said.

"I am deeply saddened that a career of extraordinary public service and achievement has been brought to a close in this way. Mr. Ridley-Thomas leaves behind an irrefutable legacy of leadership, activism and effective policymaking that have shaped our city, county and state."

RELATED: Mark Ridley-Thomas found guilty of bribery, conspiracy in corruption trial

Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson on Twitter recognized Ridley-Thomas' verdict, but also acknowledged the veteran politician's longstanding career and the contributions toward his community.

"When those in power choose to forget our community, Mark Ridley-Thomas centered and uplifted us," Harris-Dawson wrote on Twitter. "We are called to acknowledge this history in the coming days as we navigate the next steps."

Councilman Bob Blumenfield said in a statement, "I am disappointed and saddened by the reality that he is the third City Council colleague to either plead or be found guilty of corruption" -- a reference to former councilmen Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander.

"It further tears the fabric of trust in local public officials," Blumenfield added. "I am also saddened as this verdict ignominiously ends the career and stains the legacy of a man who had been a trailblazer, an icon and effective legislator for many years."

Ridley-Thomas had been suspended from City Council in 2021.

Hutt was temporarily appointed by the council to the seat in September 2022. Prior to that, she was serving as caretaker while former Coucilman Herb Wesson -- who was originally appointed to fill in during Ridley-Thomas' suspension -- was legally barred from performing his duties on the council and eventually had to resign because of term-limit issues.

Hutt has announced her intention to run for a full term in the 2024 election.