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Bernard Parks’ letter to Ridley-Thomas judge prompts ethics complaint

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By FRED SHUSTER and JOSE HERRERA | City News Service

Former City Councilman and Police Chief Bernard Parks was hit with an ethics complaint this week alleging he illegally used the seal of the City of Los Angeles and an image of his Los Angeles Police Department badge on a letter he wrote to the judge in the Mark Ridley-Thomas public corruption case.

A letter to Parks from Acting City Clerk Petty F. Santos states that the clerk’s office received the ethics complaint, and that the ex-councilman is “hereby required to cease and desist” improper use of the seal by order.

Parks’ letter to the federal judge who will sentence Ridley-Thomas on Monday urges that she impose the maximum possible penalty.

Parks lost to Ridley-Thomas in the 2008 race for county supervisor.

Santos’ letter, which was obtained by City News Service, says that the complaint was referred to the City Attorney’s Office for investigation under a section of the Los Angeles Municipal Code titled “City Seal-Imitating,” which states no person shall “make or use the seal of this City … for any purpose other than for City purposes.”

Parks’ letter to U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer uses images of the city seal and his LAPD chief’s badge at the top of the page.

In a response provided to City News Service, Parks said the ethics complaint “does not outweigh the content of my letter to the judge. And it does not erase Mr. Ridley-Thomas’s felony indictment, his felony conviction or the reality of his upcoming sentencing.”

The clerk does not name the person who lodged the complaint, but a copy of the complaint itself is signed by community activist Bev Rowe. A federal court filing by the U.S. Attorney’s Office containing Parks’ letter says it was received by the office of U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada and the federal prosecutors on the case.

A spokesman for prosecutors had no comment.

Ridley-Thomas is set to be sentenced Monday in Los Angeles federal court following convictions on single counts of conspiracy, bribery, honest services mail fraud and four counts of honest services wire fraud, stemming from his time on the county Board of Supervisors.

In the letter addressed to Fischer, filed with the court on Aug. 17, Parks wrote that the prosecution’s recommendation of a six-year prison sentence “is too lenient.”

According to Parks, “what was missed in the sentencing recommendation was how Mr. Ridley-Thomas’ colleagues were also victimized by his crimes. He misled his colleagues by soliciting their voting support, while failing to advise them of his corrupt behavior. By doing this, he led them to the brink of corruption, which cast doubt on their honesty, integrity and opened the door for their constituents to believe they were involved in his schemes.”

Urging the judge to impose “the highest penalty that his crimes allow,” the former police chief wrote that Ridley-Thomas’ “continued failure to accept responsibility or show remorse is also reprehensible. What’s more, he’s attempted to use his race to undermine the public’s faith in the judicial process and has encouraged others to do so as well.” Parks, like Ridley-Thomas, is Black.

The clerk’s communication to Parks states that in his letter to the judge, “the City Seal was used in a manner that does not meet a City purpose, per the LAMC. The City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department reserve all of their rights with regard to their trademarks and trade dress.”

Ridley-Thomas was accused of voting in support of county contracts that would favor USC while accepting benefits for his son from the university.

While prosecutors are asking for a six-year prison sentence, defense attorneys have requested a term of home confinement, community service and a monetary penalty. But if incarceration is required, Ridley-Thomas’ lawyers are asking for a range of 21 to 27 months.

Ridley-Thomas served on the Los Angeles City Council from 1991-2002, then was a member of the Assembly and state Senate before being elected to the powerful county Board of Supervisors in 2008, serving until 2020, when he returned to the City Council.

His attorneys are appealing the conviction.

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