Mark Ridley-Thomas

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas drove a 2012 Chrysler 300 luxury sedan, owned by taxpayers, though officials claimed he was driving an older, less expensive car. The newer car was assigned to former Assessor John Noguez. (Photo by Mike Reicher)

By Mike Reicher, Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 08/22/15 – 4:47 PM PDT |

On the Los Angeles County government’s official list of employee take-home vehicles, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas looks very frugal. His assigned car, a 9-year-old Chrysler 300 Limited sedan, cost the county about half as much as the next supervisor’s.

But newly released vehicle maintenance records show that Ridley-Thomas, for most of last year, actually had two cars at his disposal. He mainly drove a 2012 version of the same model, a $39,000 taxpayer-owned car, that was essentially off the books.

The documents reveal that Ridley-Thomas, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was stretching the county’s vehicle resources more than other supervisors, and that he misrepresented his situation when challenged. Workers maintained, cleaned and fueled his two working cars for seven months, according to the records. They washed one of the sedans nearly three times a week.

Ridley-Thomas said he only drove a newer car when his older one was “inoperable.” But last year he was driving it primarily, while somebody ­— it’s unclear who — drove the 2006 car occasionally.

And whether Ridley-Thomas actually drove the cars himself is uncertain. At least some of the time he used his personal driver. On a recent afternoon, his chauffeur idled one of the big black Chryslers at the county office building downtown. An on-duty sheriff’s deputy escorted Ridley-Thomas to the curb, opened the rear passenger-side door, and the supervisor slid onto the gray leather. His representatives did not respond to questions about the chauffeur.

Top county officials sign agreements and pay for their take-home vehicles, but Ridley-Thomas paid only for the older car.

An office spokeswoman said he was unavailable for an interview and referred all questions to the board’s administrative branch. In an email late Friday, the board’s top bureaucrat, Patrick Ogawa, said the older car had 126,000 miles and was “nearing the end of its useful life.” Ridley-Thomas wasn’t actually assigned the newer car, Ogawa said.

“Staff recommended that he use a different vehicle,” he said. “Acting on that recommendation, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas began using the 2012 Chrysler, which had been sitting idle.”

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