Clergy members, constituents voice support for councilman

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Several clergy groups and community organizations showed their support Jan. 8 for City Councilman Curren Price as he was arraigned on corruption charges.

Members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, Experience Christian Ministries, South Central United and other groups gathered at the Criminal Courts Building in downtown L.A., where Price pleaded not guilty to charges of theft by embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest.

Price is accused of voting on projects involving developers tied to his wife’s consulting firm, then failing to report the connections.

“He’s innocent until proven guilty, and he has vehemently denied the allegations,” the Rev. William Smart, president and CEO of the SCLC of Southern California, told City News Service prior to the hearing. “He’s been someone for the community.”

Smart also called Price a “champion of the people,” adding, “we have to stand by our champions because they speak for us, and now … we have to speak up and show up for him.”

The SCLC, whose first president was the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has several offices throughout Price’s Ninth District, which encompasses most of South Los Angeles.

“We were fighting for rights, and against white supremacy, against militarism and against poverty,” Smart said. “That’s what we’ve been fighting for even today.”

Price is the fourth council member to face charges in recent years. Former council members Jose Huizar and Mitch Englander both pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Former Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represented the adjacent 10th District, was convicted last year of federal charges for trading votes during his time on the county Board of Supervisors in exchange for benefits provided by USC to his son.

“This is not a great time for African-American elected officials in L.A. because of what recently happened to another city councilman,” Smart said, referring to Ridley-Thomas, who, like Price, is Black.

“It’s time to really stand behind [Price] and the work that he has done from immigration, parks, cleaning the streets, economic development and the things that he has stood for.”

Maria Espinosa, a member of Mamas del Sur Centro, a group of mothers who advocate on behalf of their South Los Angeles communities, said Price has been a supporter of her group and others like it.

“I hope all goes well, because we want him to continue to represent all of us in District 9,” Espinosa said.

According to the criminal complaint, between 2019 and 2021, Price’s wife’s consulting firm, Del Richardson & Associates, received payments totaling more than $150,000 from a pair of developers, after which Price voted on matters pertaining to the companies. He also allegedly failed to report the connections or the money paid to his wife’s company on city disclosure forms.

“Today’s charges against Councilman Curren Price are the result of a thorough investigation into allegations of public corruption,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement when Price was charged last June.

“This alleged conduct undermines the integrity of our government and erodes the public’s trust in our elected officials.”

Though some individuals and groups support Price, others have called for his resignation or suspension from the council.

On June 17, Adriana Cabrera, president of Central Alameda Neighborhood Council, alongside Alberto Tlatoa, executive director of South Central Farm Restoration Committee; Yesenia Morales, founder of Corazon de SurCentro; and Hugo Rodriguez, a South Los Angeles community organizer, held a news conference to demand Price resign.

On June 23, when the council’s Rules, Elections, and Intergovernmental Relations Committee discussed whether to suspend Price, Cabrera advocated for his suspension.

Cabrera, who finished third in a field of three candidates in 2017 with 14% of the vote as Price was reelected to a second term with 63%, said Price’s leadership has benefited developers and hurt renters who make up 70% of the district.

“We ask that the City Council suspend Price and put the interest of our South Central District 9 community first over Curren Price’s personal legal matters,” Cabrera said during the committee meeting.

Ultimately, the committee took no action.

In July, Price stepped down as council president pro tem and surrendered all his committee assignments.

Price has represented the Ninth District since 2013. He previously served in the state Assembly and state Senate and the Inglewood City Council.