LA City Council votes to appoint Heather Hutt to fill Mark Ridley-Thomas' seat for remainder of term

Wednesday, April 12, 2023
LA council votes to appoint Hutt to fill Ridley-Thomas' seat
The Los Angeles City Council appointed Heather Hutt as councilwoman for the 10th District to fill out the remainder of former Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas' term.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The City Council Tuesday voted to appoint Heather Hutt as councilwoman for the 10th District to fill out the remainder of former Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas' term, following Ridley-Thomas' recent conviction on federal corruption charges.

Hutt, who received a burst of applause from supporters in the council chambers when her appointment was finalized on an 11-1 vote, was immediately sworn into her new role.

She then gave brief, emotional remarks, saying, "It is an honor for me to serve the people of the 10th District.''

"I just want to take a moment to thank my colleagues, council president and my friends and family, my staff and the constituents of the 10th District,'' Hutt said, fighting back tears.

Of the 10th District, she said, "It is not an easy place to be, but with all the support that we get here, I'll continue to do the work. I signed up to do the work and my mom raised us to work for our people. I just want to say thank you."

"And now I'm going to put my glasses on, and let's get to work.''

After Hutt was sworn in, Mayor Karen Bass issued a statement stating that she looks forward to continuing to work with Hutt to confront critical issues in the city.

"Councilmember Hutt has a track record of exemplary public service and I know the people of the 10th City Council District will benefit from her continued leadership,'' Bass said.

Despite some vocal opposition at Tuesday's meeting from constituents, including local civil rights leaders, who wanted the city to call for an immediate special election, the council voted to have Hutt fill the seat until December 2024, when the term expires.

Hutt had been District 10's temporary councilwoman until March 30, when Ridley-Thomas was convicted and the seat became officially vacant.

Subsequently, Council President Paul Krekorian announced his intention for Hutt to take over the job and have the council vote on the matter Tuesday, in its first session back following a two-week recess. Hutt had officially been the seat's non-voting "caretaker'' since March 30.

Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez was the lone no'' vote -- citing what she called a lack of transparency and process.

"It's really problematic for me that we find ourselves in this conversation again, and I understand how frustrating and upsetting it is for residents of the district,'' Rodriguez said. "I understand because what disenfranchised communities look like are no different than what we see in Council District 6, right now. But we are honoring a process in Council District 6 with democracy, with a special election for the people to be afforded opportunity to select and elect their representative.''

In response to Rodriguez's comments, Krekorian said the circumstances prompting the special election in the Sixth District is different from the events that unfolded following Ridley-Thomas' indictment and the vacancy of his seat.

A special election was held April 4 to fill the Sixth District seat vacated when former Council President Nury Martinez resigned after she was caught making racists comments on a leaked audio tape from 2021.

Krekorian had previously argued against the special-election option -- saying it would cost taxpayers around $8 million -- and for Hutt's appointment.

"Heather Hutt has capably represented the district as the temporary appointee and I am confident she will continue to do so as the permanent appointee,'' Krekorian said.

"In a matter of months,'' he added, "the people of the district will have the opportunity to decide whether they prefer to elect her or a different representative in the regularly scheduled election. By contrast, a special election, which would cost taxpayers almost $8 million, could result in one person serving through the end of this year, a new person taking over in January, and another person starting a year later. That kind of instability, uncertainty and political gamesmanship does not serve the interests of the people of the 10th District.''

Krekorian's comments came in response to a demand by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, for a special election.

"The council must end the effective disenfranchisement and caretaker role it has assigned the thousands of residents of the district since Thomas' suspension,'' Hutchinson said.

"The council has a duty to return representative government to the 10th District -- not through an appointee it chooses but a special election that allows the residents, not the City Council, to have a full and total say in who should represent them,'' he added.

Numerous residents reflected similar sentiments during Tuesday's public comment period, but the council opted for Krekorian's road map.

Angie Brown, 10th District resident, asked the council to provide the district a fresh start via a special election, to get past what she described as a "corruption mess.''

Other constituents voiced their support for Krekorian's plan.

"We've been able to get something done and to make our community move forward and successful,'' district resident Donna Jones said.

A federal jury on March 30 convicted Ridley-Thomas of bribery and conspiracy charges, along with mail and wire fraud, stemming from his time serving on the county Board of Supervisors and accommodations provided to his son by a then-USC dean. He faces possible years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 14.

Ridley-Thomas was suspended from the City Council in 2021.

Hutt was temporarily appointed by the council in September 2022. Prior to that, she was serving as caretaker while former Councilman 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 forced to resign because of term-limit issues.

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

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