Ridley-Thomas defends $707K office renovations

MAR VISTA, Calif. Eyewitness News has obtained records comparing Mark Ridley-Thomas's office repairs to those of the other supervisors.

Ridley-Thomas says there is no reason for him to feel defensive about spending more than $700,000 in taxpayer money on his office. It comes at a time when unemployment is at a record high and the county has frozen hiring and eliminated jobs.

Ridley-Thomas helped dedicate a new path along Ballona Creek as workers get ready to begin a $707,000 renovation of his downtown offices.

That is more than twice the median price of a family home in Los Angeles County, and 13 times more than all four fellow supervisors have spent on their offices in the past two years.

"It is completely defensible and it's not fair to compare this to other supervisors who have been there for 15-plus years, at a minimum," said Ridley-Thomas.

Ridley-Thomas has been a supervisor one year.

Compare that with numbers provided by L.A. County Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka.

Supervisor Gloria Molina spent nothing last year and less than $4,000 so far on new modular workstations.

Ridley-Thomas so far has spent $23,000 spiffing up his field offices.

Zev Yaroslavsky reconfigured his office to add more space and over two years spent $36,000.

Don Knabe spent nearly $8,600 for work areas in his offices.

And Mike Antonovich spent less than $5,000, none of it in the current year.

Ridley-Thomas insists his offices have not been fixed up in more than 25 years.

"This is the only office that's not had any improvements and that is not acceptable," said Ridley-Thomas.

Ridley-Thomas's immediate predecessor was Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke. She said she had new carpet and drapes installed in offices before she left, and refurbished the conference room, all within five to 10 years.

Ridley-Thomas's offices will be painted, electrical outlets replaced, all hardware brought up to specs for disabled people, generally refurbished and a kitchenette replaced.

The money all comes out of a more than $3 million discretionary fund given to each supervisor.

"This investment is what, in part, creates opportunities for people to work," said Ridley-Thomas.

Eyewitness News requested an itemized list of the renovations for Ridley-Thomas's office since Tuesday.

The four other supervisors use part of their discretionary funds for projects in their districts. Yaroslavsky is helping a school get a health clinic. Molina has contributed millions to an art center.

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