LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was the subject of two sexual harassment complaints at the time he stepped down from the Legislature last year, according to documents reviewed by the Los Angeles Times and sources familiar with the matter.
Ridley-Thomas, who denied any wrongdoing, went on a few months later to become a professor of social work and public policy at USC. When the junior legislator, the son of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, abruptly resigned from the Assembly in December, he cited chronic health problems that had necessitated five surgeries in the previous year.
A university source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said USC had found no evidence that Sebastian Ridley-Thomas informed administrators he was under investigation, The Times reported. A background check conducted before his hiring did not identify any red flags, the source said.
USC fired Ridley-Thomas last month amid questions about his appointment and a $100,000 donation to the school from his father' campaign funds.
In a statement to The Times this week, Sebastian Ridley- Thomas'attorney reiterated that his client stepped down from the Assembly solely because of “health reasons.”
“He underwent a number of surgeries and his doctor made it clear that serving in the Assembly was no longer an option,” Lance Olson said in a statement.
As for the misconduct claims, Olson said: “He categorically denies any accusation, innuendo or conjecture that he conducted himself inappropriately while serving in the Legislature. If anything, he was reserved and always respectful of those around him, be they staff persons, colleagues, or the public.”
Sources close to Ridley-Thomas also told The Times he was suffering from health problems at the time of his resignation. Stephen J. Kaufman, an attorney for Mark Ridley-Thomas, said the supervisor remained “convinced his son's decision was a wise one because of the marked improvement in his health.”
According to documents and people familiar with the matter, the two reports of misconduct are under investigation by the Assembly Rules Committee, which is responsible for examining harassment complaints. The complaints are not subject to public review until and unless they are substantiated.
First elected in a 2013 special election at age 26, Sebastian Ridley- Thomas was one of the youngest legislators in the Assembly. He held a significant chairmanship -- the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation. He was also known for his close association with his father. A former state legislator and city councilman, Mark Ridley-Thomas is one of the most influential politicians in Los Angeles, and his connections and donor base repeatedly helped his son at the ballot box.