Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price was charged Tuesday, June 13, by the Los Angeles County District Attorney with multiple counts of embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest, according to a press release sent out by the District Attorney’s Office.
Price faces five counts of embezzlement of government funds, three counts of perjury and two counts of conflict of interest, according to a statement from the District Attorney’s office.
Council President Paul Krekorian, in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, announced that Price had made the decision to step down as council president pro tem, and was surrendering all of his committee assignments. Price, however, did not state if he would be resigning from the council.
“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 stated in a letter.
Price ended the letter by writing that he looks “forward to having the opportunity to continue to be a strong voice for our culturally rich South Central, a part of our city that has long been disenfranchised, overlooked and forgotten.”
Price was charged for having a financial interest in projects that he voted on as a council member, and having the city pay nearly $34,000 in medical benefits for his now-wife while he was still married to another woman, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement.
Between 2019 and 2021, Price’s wife allegedly received payments totaling more than $150,000 from developers before Price voted to approve the projects, according to Gascón’s statement. He also is accused of failing to report the income that his wife received on government disclosure forms.
“This alleged conduct undermines the integrity of our government and erodes the public’s trust in our elected officials,” Gascón said.
Price’s spokesperson, Angelina Valencia-Dumarot, said in a statement: “We have not seen the charges filed against Councilmember Curren Price. It’s highly unusual for charges like this to be brought up against a sitting City Councilmember without any prior notice or discussion.
“Curren Price is a longstanding a 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.”
Zach Seidl, spokesperson for L.A. 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.”
Price has represented the 9th District, which includes most of South Los Angeles and Exposition Park, since 2013. He previously served in the state Assembly, state Senate and the Inglewood City Council.
The charges against Price, 72, are the latest political scandal to rock City Hall. Former City Councilman Mark Ridley Thomas was convicted earlier this year on federal corruption charges in a scheme in which prosecutors said he promised to help steer a multimillion-dollar government contract to USC if his son got a scholarship and a teaching job. Ridley Thomas is fighting the conviction and is scheduled for a hearing on June 26 to contest the conviction.
“I have immense respect for Curren Price. He’s been a strong colleague on so many issues,” Councilwoman Nithya Raman told Eyewitness News. “I’m saddened by the news and looking forward to reading what is in these documents.
“I don’t want to say anything beyond that, but I will say as somebody who goes out there every day and is really trying to build trust in the city, and the work of the city during a moment of real crisis, every time there’s a news story like this I feel it makes it a little harder for us to go out there and do that, and that’s tough.”
On Wednesday, June 14, Krekorian introduced a motion to suspend Price, pursuant to Section 211 of the City Charter. The council’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the motion, then the motion will be taken up by the full council for a vote.
This action is similar to the steps that were taken against former Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas following indictment charges, however, the council had reinstated his salary until he was convicted in late March. The belief is that even if Price is suspended, his pay would remain intact until such time as he is either found innocent or convicted.
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.
Price was not taken into custody and the District Attorney’s office said that “arraignment will be scheduled for a later date.”