Former school of social work dean agrees to guilty plea in bribery case

Marilyn Flynn will plead guilty, admitting she helped to funnel $100,000 to an L.A. county supervisor in exchange for a USC contract.

A flight of stairs leads up to the red-brick building that hosts USC's school of social work.

Former dean of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Marilyn Flynn has agreed to plead guilty in an ongoing bribery case, admitting that she worked to pay an L.A. county supervisor $100,000 in exchange for a USC contract with the county, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In a statement, the Attorney’s Office argued on Thursday that Flynn bribed L.A. County Board of Supervisors member Mark Ridley-Thomas by “funneling $100,000 he provided from his campaign account through USC to a nonprofit operated by his son to obtain a lucrative county contract.”

The university said in a statement Friday that they complied with the investigation, and they reported Flynn to the Attorney’s Office when details of the bribery case came to light.

“USC strongly supports the School of Social Work and the role it plays in training those who serve the public good,” the statement from the university said. “...USC is not a party to the criminal case but respects the judicial process.”

Before leaving USC in 2018, Flynn was a tenured faculty member seeking an updated contract for an existing program between the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and the School of Social Work. This program allowed social work students to provide mental healthcare services to patients recommended by the county, according to the Attorney’s Office.

In Oct. 2021, Flynn and Ridley-Thomas were indicted on federal corruption charges.

At that time, Annenberg Media reported that Flynn and Ridley-Thomas allegedly conspired to provide Ridley-Thomas’ son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, with admission into USC, a full-tuition scholarship and a paid position at the university in exchange for the mental health services contracts. The School of Social Work was also facing a budget deficit of several million dollars, according to the Attorney’s Office.

Ridley-Thomas is currently suspended from his position on the Board of Supervisors while he awaits trial for federal charges of bribery, fraud and conspiracy in November, the L.A. Times reported.

Flynn’s plea agreement will also allow Rep. Karen Bass to stay out of the public eye in the run-up to the L.A. mayoral election, the Times also reported. Bass was offered a full ride scholarship to obtain her master’s in social work from former Dean Marilyn Flynn, allegedly in exchange for policy changes in favor of USC.