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Amid outcry, L.A. supervisor Ridley-Thomas rethinks plans for $700,000 in office renovations [Updated]

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas today said he was revising his plans to spend $700,000 on renovations to his county offices.

In a statement, Ridley-Thomas said he asked the county's chief executive officer, William T Fujioka, to review how best to rehab the offices. The Board of Supervisors today approved his request.

"The CEO will review the condition of the workspace, including building code violations, other safety concerns and energy efficiency, and proceed consistent with board policy," Ridley-Thomas said in the statement. "Discussion of the proposed repair and renovation work has become a needless distraction inflamed by misleading and erroneous information."

Ridley-Thomas' proposal, met with criticism from some community activists, was the subject of several TV reports that questioned the cost of the rehab work amid the county's budget problems.

"As was my objective from the outset, we will continue to make service to the constituents of the 2nd District our top priority," Ridley-Thomas said in the statement. "They deserve the very best that the county of Los Angeles has to offer and I intend to meet their expectations."

[Updated 2:20 p.m.: Ridley-Thomas also said he has ordered an "independent review" to "re-scope and re-evaluate the proposed project."

"We’re reassessing the appraisal, the cost, the scope of what needs to be done," he said.

On his website, he has posted an "office improvements" link explaining the proposed work, which includes replacing office furniture, carpet, floor tiles, ceiling, lighting, interior woodwork, air conditioning, electrical equipment and plumbing.

Ridley-Thomas has said the work will be covered by his district’s discretionary fund, and the renovations are long overdue. He won the county's 2nd supervisorial district seat last year after beating Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks to replace the retiring Yvonne Brathwaite Burke.

"This is an office that hasn’t been invested in in over two decades. That is not acceptable," he told The Times last week, adding that he believed that the initial cost estimate made sense given the scope of the project.

"They did nothing of consequence when I moved into the office, bare minimum," he said. "It’s perfectly reasonable."

"I do not think we should do anything extravagant, nor have I over the many years I have been in public office," he said. "It’s to make the office more efficient, safe."

Now, he said his staff of 31 are doubled up in offices in the 6,400-square-foot facility with "substandard" lighting. He said there was no timeline for the renovation. He had originally planned to start Dec. 9 and complete renovations by August.

-- Shelby Grad and Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Comments () | Archives (38)

....it takes $700,000 in office renovations to provide service to his constituents?
My o' my...how could his predecessor have possibly gotten along without "all that" and still have provided service to the constituents?

Hey, Mark, why stop at $700K? You deserve the very best. Remember, you are the first black male supervisor in the city. "Those old days are OVER!"

Mr. Ridley-Thomas, there is NOTHING erroneous about your wanting to spend $700,000 - $1 million to remodel your offices. It is disgraceful in this time of economic uncertainty for many, many Angelenos that you would even contemplate a massive remodel of your offices.

YES! This should have been a no-brainer--it shouldn't have taken the masses finally uprising and refusing to stand for this nonsense to have the Supervisors wise up and realize it was a hugely indulgent, stupid idea in the first place.

Bill Fujioka used to be the CAO here in the City of LA and I KNOW that he was aware that this would be a huge mistake in the current economic environment (and heck, even if we were flush with cash!!). And as for Ridley-Thomas...I knew him way back in the late 80's when he was a teacher at an all-girl private school. I never would have thought he'd turn into such an arrogant, indulgent, self-entitled member of the community. Shameful. I'm glad a light was shone upon this foolishness, and the important thing is for all you Angelenos to REMEMBER THIS AT THE BALLOT BOXES! Stop electing these idiots based on name recognition, or the (D) after their names!

BRAVO, John and Ken! You rock!

What else should Angelenos expect from a life-long bureaucrat? Has Ridley-Thomas ever worked an honest day in his life? Would someone please illuminate any of his achievements? I'm not aware of any...

John and Ken shined a light on this idiots behavior and crawled back into the
shadows where he could hide.

Hey Mr. Supervisor, I'd love to re-do my house, even the "bare minimum." Guess what? I can't afford it right now and neither can the taxpayers afford to indulge you and your self entitlement.

So this clown decided to rethink spending $700,000 to redo his office. Gee, what made this guy think it was ok in the first place? Who does this creep think he is, Caligula? If the people hadn't raised Hell about his "renovation" he would have spent that cash and not given it a second thought. Now he wants to reconsider. This bun needs to be thrown out of office as soon as he's up for re-election before he bankrupts the city naming buildings after himself!

Why does it surprise anybody what Ridley wants to do. He took millions from the unions to get elected and this prompted a federal investigation for which his buddy, Alejandro Stevens will do time.

Ridley stated that he wouldn't have "his" employees work in such conditions. Excuse me Mark, but aren't these county employees, and thus our employees. When you can go out and start a business on your own then maybe you can claim them as "your" employees. But like most politicians who have never run their own successful business, this is not going to happen anytime soon. Mark, they are only "your" employees when you can sign the front of the paycheck, not just the back.

It must be great to play fast and loose with someone else's money.

On his website, he blames the media for reporting his self-indulgent spending. Good by reality, welcome parallel universe of public servants...
He also writes that (and remember, this is a government project): "While $707,000 has been authorized, we hope it will cost less." Hah! Priceless!
And another nugget: "We think maintaining an office that maximizes productivity and meets legal and regulatory requirements is important, as is maintaining a professional appearance that shows our regard for the public we serve." In terms of productivity, apparently the lighting in the office was bright enough to keep staffers from falling asleep.
Then again, he just got elected to a position which no one ever gets voted out of. So, expect the milking of public funds to resume, this time a bit smarter so that the media won't catch wind of it. Good Riddance-Thomas!

Yeah...revise your plans to $0!!! Give that money to your constituents as college grants, grants to non-profits, support for low income seniors struggling to afford food and their medication.

Ridley-Thomas, you don't deserve the cherry wood furniture yet, sir! Or the full kitchen remodel...buy a microwave for $100 bucks, warm up your left overs from home you punk!

That money is NOT yours as you so obviously believe. It belongs to all tax payers and therefore be returned to the tax payers through services for the greater good...not for expensive carpet and paint jobs...how much were those painters and plumbers going to get paid???!!!


LOL...service to your constituents? Yeah right! If that were true you wouldn't have Salya Mohamedy as one of your deputies of Public Health. She's yet to meet a phone call she can actually return.

And if service to your constituency is really a concern, why don't you take the $700,000 and hire more staff? Or create scholarships and give it to the top performing students in the district?

But no, I guess Ridley Thomas is of such astounding intellectual prowess that spending it all at Williams Sonoma and Ethan Allen is a much better idea.

Classic hubris from an outsized ego who blusters his way through life. Thanks to
KABC, Steve Lopez and John and Ken for exposing this horrifying abuse of power. Now the question is: what's the excuse the other 4 Supervisors are using to defend their vote in favor of the project originally?
What was anyone thinking????? These are our leaders? Get me outta here....

This total disreguard for the public is why politicians are held in such low reguard. All politicians are crooks. Why else would someone pay 10 or 20 million dollars for a $200,000 a year job?

These funds are discretionary they say, so he can spend at will, with the blessing of the other sups of course. Who out there thinks these kinds of spending requests EVER get voted down? No one!

People actually voted this oxygen thief into office?


He is the Supervisor of the 2nd District, the most impoverished district in all of L.A. County.

Can you imagine how much $700,000.00 would help his bealegured constituents? How many after school, seniors or grafitti removal programs that would help?

But noooooo. The Lord Emperor of the South District insists on improving his palace, in the midst of an economic downturn no less.

So what if "improvements" have not been done there since the 1980s? Most folks (including myself) would love a new car, or home improvements. But we can't because we don't want to break our budget or to take money away from more urgent or critical needs. Especially in these hard economic times.

Mr. Ridley-Thomas (what's with the two last names?) needs to learn to prioritize or there are going to be a lot of challengers the next time he's up for re-election.

How does Ridley-Thomas use productivity and staff in the same sentence. Thirty four people are required to keep this Bozo afloat? PLEASE. If your staff is having a problem working in their present conditions, you mught want to take them on a field trip to the garment district. Those workers have tough conditions and still manage to output something actually usefull. How about your staff Mr. Entitlement?

Hey LA Times Idiot Reporters,

The poeple who made this story happen were KFI listeners of John and Ken. They lit the fuse of the citizens by repeatedly calling attention to this waste of taxpayer money.

You guys don't seem to want to admit the listeners of this station are vast, involved, vote and respond with calls and emails.

This is just another example of how out of touch the LA Times is on Los Angeles events. No wonder you are going out of business and can't hold subscribers.

Amazing how jerks like this feel ENTITLED to our money! Thank you John & Ken @ KFI for leading the charge against this tax money thief.

Let's not forget the $300,000 Herman Miller furniture the supervisor wanted in addition to the remodel bringing the total cost of the project to over a million dollars! Absolutely absurd. Time to throw this bum out!

He didn't rethink the remodel, he's still defending it! The money from the discretionary fund was recinded. As it should be. This was a blatent misappropriation of tax payer dollars, there is no other way to look at it! Corrupt!!! there was another $300K that was going to be used for furniture rounding that number to a cool million. Why not though if our mayor can set an example by spending $120k on traveling to Europe for less than a week without including airfare? These people are spending our money. It's really shameful.

I was apalled at MRT was planning so spend so much on his office. I wrote the supervisors, and MRT himself, to tell him what I thought of his selfish decision. At a time when his constituents are losing their homes to foreclosure and their cars to reposession, how could he justify such obsurd spending. His predecessors got along just fine without spending even 10% of this. I hope the voters don't forget this next time they have a decision to make about him.

6,400 square feet of office amounts to 206 square feet per employee (20 x 10 room), so in other words an office for each one of "his" employees! What I can do to spend $22k for my own cubicle!

I read an article (when schools were complaining)that kids in India didn't have school buildings to fix up, school was held in the field. How did they ever become Doctors, Engineers etc? Mark, if you have 31 employees that are doubled up in 6,400 sq ft, maybe you have too many employees!!! Is this an ego trip?

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