February 24, 2022

By Danny J. Bakewell, Jr.

Executive Editor


The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Feb. 22, to appoint former Councilmember Herb Wesson to represent the city’s 10th district, as a replacement for suspended Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas while he battles legal issues in federal court. 

Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez led the charge to temporarily fill the seat until such time as Councilman Ridley-Thomas’s legal issues have been resolved.   

"The residents of the 10th district now have voting power on homelessness, public safety, equity, and opportunity. Herb Wesson has dedicated over 30 years to this district and I have no doubt he will honorably represent Council District 10," Martinez said. 

Wesson will hold the position through Dec. 31, unless Ridley-Thomas is acquitted or the charges against him are dropped. 

“With over 30 years in public service representing the residents of Council District 10, there is no better choice at this time than former councilmember Herb Wesson,” Martinez said after announcing her motion to appoint Wesson on Feb. 16. 

“Mr. Wesson cares deeply about the communities he represents and knows the district better than anyone. The constituents of Council District 10 need a voting member who understands their community to represent them within Council Chambers,” she added. 

Because of term limits, Wesson can’t seek election to the City Council because he previously represented the 10th District from 2005 to December 2020. He also served as the president of the council, from 2012 to 2020.   

However, he was able to be appointed as the interim councilmember to ensure that the citizens of the 10th District have adequate representation during these challenging and uncertain times. 

Wesson has already been sworn-in to serve as the interim councilmember and is planning to hit the ground running.  When asked how he feels about returning to the council, he said, “I am honored that the members of the City Council and the residents of the 10th District have the faith in me to serve in this leadership position.   

“I love the 10th.  The 10th is my home and I am here, strictly in a capacity of public service.  I am here to represent my community and to ensure that my neighbors have the representation that they so vitally need and deserve.”  

Regarding his plans now that he has been sworn in, Wesson said, “I am focused on meeting with the staff, assessing the situation and determining what has and what still needs to be done, so that I can hit the ground running to move our district and the city forward.” 

Councilman Mike Bonin sought to delay the vote on the appointment until after the City Council receives a detailed report on the full range of available scenarios, including a public report from the city attorney on eligibility requirements for potential appointments and a report from the city attorney, city clerk and chief legislative analyst on steps, costs, and legality of holding a special election for Council District 10 residents to pick their own temporary council member. 

Bonin’s amendment to receive the reports was adopted by the council on Feb. 22, however, an amendment to delay the vote by one week until after the reports are received fell one vote short and was not adopted.  The vote to appoint Wesson as a temporary replacement was adopted unanimously. 

Also, several people called into the City Council meeting pushing for Wesson to be appointed to represent the district, noting that residents have not had a voting representative since Ridley-Thomas’ suspension on Oct. 20. 

A woman who identified herself as Lillian Wilson, “a stakeholder in the district for 45-plus years,” urged the City Council to vote immediately to appoint Wesson, saying, “We’ve been without representation for four months and we don’t want this to go on another six to 12 months, we need representation, we need a vote at the table.” 

Damien Goodmon, who is a board member for the Downtown Crenshaw Rising project, also called in to urge Wesson’s appointment, saying the district’s lack of representation has impacted progress on major issues. He added that Wesson’s appointment would “remain consistent with the precedent set by this council when Mitch Englander stepped down and the previous council member was put in Englander’s seat.” 

Former Councilman Greig Smith, who represented Council District 12 from 2003 to 2011, represented the district again from January to August 2019 after Englander vacated the seat in December 2018 to take a job with the Oak View Group, a global sports and entertainment advisory, development and investment company. Smith at the time was eligible for another term on the City Council after opting to not run for a third term. 

While some in the community have pushed for Wesson to be appointed to the seat, others have expressed their view that suspending Ridley-Thomas from the City Council before a trial goes against the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. 

On Feb. 18, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California filed a lawsuit aimed at getting Ridley-Thomas reinstated on the City Council, alleging that “the decision to suspend (Ridley-Thomas) contravenes the bedrock presumption of innocence guaranteed under California law.” Ridley-Thomas was executive director of the organization’s Greater Los Angeles chapter from 1981-1991. 

Pastor William Smart, SCLC of Southern California’s president, told City News Service that his position is that Ridley-Thomas’ suspension was “morally wrong, politically indefensible, and patently illegal.”   

The courts have yet to rule on the pending litigation and for now, Herb Wesson will serve as councilman for the 10th District on an interim basis. 

City News Service contributed to this report.

Category: Community