Price charged with theft, perjury, corruption

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Wave Staff and Wire Reports

LOS ANGELES — The City Council is expected to consider suspending City Councilman Curren Price sometime next week after the Ninth District city councilman was charged June 13 with theft by embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest.

City Council President Paul Krekorian introduced a motion June 14 to suspend Price, who is accused of voting on projects involving developers tied to his wife’s consulting firm, then failing to report the connections.

Price sent a letter to Krekorian after the charges were made public, announcing his decision to step down as council president pro tem, and surrendering all of his committee assignments.

“While I navigate through the judicial system to defend my name against unwarranted charges filed against me, the last thing I want to do is be a distraction to the people’s business,” Price wrote in the letter.

The motion to suspend Price, pursuant to Section 211 of the City Charter, will proceed to the Rules Committee for a hearing, then back to the full council for a final vote. The next meeting of the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee is scheduled for June 23, but Krekorian said the council might agree to a special session to discuss the motion sooner.

An arraignment date is still pending for Price. The criminal complaint also alleges that Price effectively embezzled money between 2013 and 2017 by having the city cover roughly $33,800 in medical premiums for Del Richardson, to whom he claimed to be married, although he was still married at the time to Lynn Suzette Price.

Price, 72, has represented the Ninth District, which includes most of South Los Angeles and the western part of downtown Los Angeles, since 2013. He previously served in the state Assembly, the state Senate amd the Inglewood City Council from 1993 to 1997.

Price’s spokeswoman, Angelina Valencia-Dumarot, told City News Service that “it’s highly unusual for charges like this to be brought up against a sitting City Council member without any prior notice or discussion.

“Curren Price is a longstanding public servant who has given his life to the city of Los Angeles. He looks forward to defending himself once he’s had an opportunity to address these charges,” she added.

Zach Seidl, spokesman for Mayor Karen Bass, issued a statement saying, “The mayor has yet to review the charges filed earlier today but she is saddened by this news.”

Author and community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson asked the City Council not to suspend Price from the council.

“The charges against Price are serious and again underscore the need for the council to firmly crack down on ethics and wheeler dealer deal-making violations,” Hutchinson said. “However, the council … should not suspend Price. He represents the poorest, most underserved, mostly Black and Latino city council district. Suspending him would further disenfranchise the district ‘s constituents.”

The head of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, Hutchinson said: “I just don’t get it. 

The Los Angeles City Council is the best paid [city council] in the country by far. So how do you explain its greed and corruption?”

According to the criminal complaint against Price, between 2019 and 2021, his 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.

“[The] 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. “This alleged conduct undermines the integrity of our government and erodes the public’s trust in our elected officials. We will continue to work tirelessly to root out corruption at all levels and hold accountable those who betray the public’s trust.”

Price is the latest Los Angeles city official to fall into legal or political turmoil. Former council members Jose Huizar and Mitch Englander have both pleaded guilty to federal charges in recent years, while Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was convicted earlier this 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.

Former City Council President Nury Martinez resigned last year after being caught on tape in a racially charged conversation with two other council members and a county labor official discussing the council’s redistricting process.

At a news conference June 14 at City Hall to explain the council’s next steps, Krekorian acknowledged that the council has been rocked by a number of scandals in recent years which are “palpably felt by me, by the members of the council and certainly by the members of the public.”

But he also recognized the need to look at these cases as “things that stand on their own.” Regarding the charges against Price, Krekorian noted that the council does not know whether they have merit. The judicial process will bear that out, he added.

“The process will give the council adequate opportunity to consider all of the issues, including the nature of the charges that have been filed and the impacts of suspension of the people of the Ninth District,” Krekorian said.

If the council ultimately makes the decision to suspend Price, Krekorian said he would “immediately appoint a caretaker” to ensure that the work of the Ninth District office continues. Krekorian said the caretaker could be a temporary voting member.

“That is obviously a deeply political process that the community will have to have significant weigh-in as to who that person might be to represent them as a temporary voting member,” he added.

Harris-Dawson introduced a motion to initiate the process for community input from the Ninth District.

Krekorian cited a need to engage constituents “because in the past when there had been actions taken surrounding suspension, the people of the district have voice their concerns about being left without representation.”

After the council voted to suspend Ridley-Thomas in October 2021, then-Council President Nury Martinez appointed former City Councilman Herb Wesson to serve as a voting member of the council in Ridley-Thomas’ absence.

A group of 10th Council District residents went to court to overturn Wesson’s appointment. He later resigned and Heather Hutt is currently serving as Ridley-Thomas’ replacement.  

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