A Los Angeles City Council committee voted today, June 23, to defer a recommendation regarding the possible suspension of Councilman Curren Price, who faces various criminal charges, until their Aug. 25 meeting.
In the meantime, the committee voted 3-0 to approve a second motion calling for the city to engage constituents of the Ninth District and receive input on Price’s possible suspension.
With Price facing charges of embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest, the Council’s Rules, Elections, and Intergovernmental Relations Committee mulled the suspension motion that was put forth last week by Council President Paul Krekorian. The committee voted 3-0 to delay any recommendations on Price’s possible suspension and wait to hear more information on what
actions the Council could take.
Price issued a statement shortly after the committee meeting, saying he was pleased that the committee delayed its vote as he has “not yet had the opportunity to answer the unwarranted charges” against him.
“I hope that the committee, and the full Council, will extend the same presumption of innocence that the law extends to me, and I look forward to proving my innocence,” Price said in a statement.
The Rules Committee met in Room 401 at City Hall, which quickly filled to capacity as constituents of the Ninth District came to urge the committee not to suspend Price.
In response to the outpour of support, Price expressed his “sincerest gratitude to the dozens and dozens of neighbors, the young and young at heart, who came out in droves to speak from the heart on all the wonderful work taking place across our community.”
Price continued to say that his constituents’ voices “mattered and roared like thunder across City Hall today.”
Krekorian, chair of the committee, said the charges against Price are of “real concern,” and that is why it’s important that “we consider every aspect of the actions that we may or may not take.” He noted his motion begins the process of analysis.
According to Krekorian, the city charter does not require that a Council member be suspended, even when they’re charged with a crime. Suspension of the member is up to the discretion of the Council. The councilman explained that one reason for suspension is to protect the city and taxpayers from the continued risk of having a council member charged with crimes.
Krekorian alluded to the various cases in which a city official fell into legal or political turmoil, including former council member Jose Huizar and Mitch Englander who both pleaded guilty to federal charges in recent years.
Krekorian also mentioned Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who 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.
In the case of Huizar and Englander, Krekorian noted it was “clear that the City Council needed to act to protect the people of Los Angeles.”
However, when it came to the case of Ridley-Thomas, Krekorian recognized that the council moved “very quickly” to suspend the former councilman in light of serious charges brought against him.
“In the many months that followed, it became very clear what the real world impact of that suspension was,” Krekorian said. “I don’t know as I reflect back on it whether it was mistake ultimately to vote for suspension, but I do know it was a mistake to do so quickly without thinking about what would come after.
“The result was that for almost the remainder of his term, we were left with a district without a voting representative that they elected,” he added.
Krekorian expressed the council is in a similar situation with Price as was the case with Ridley-Thomas. He also emphasized that the council has “not heard one iota of evidence to support these charges” against Price.
The Council President listed a number of questions and concerns related to Price’s suspension — mainly the consequences of ensuring representation and services to the Ninth District.
In addition, L.A. City Controller Kenneth Mejia publicly confirmed that if the Council suspended Price, then he would not pay Price’s salary. Krekorian said he was concerned there would be an impact on Price’s family.
Council President Pro Tem Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who sits on the Rules Committee, agreed with Krekorian.
“This hearing is an example of the kind of input that the Council always needs to get when making a very, very weighty decision,” Harris-Dawson said. He motioned for the committee to defer the proposal to suspend Price.
The committee will receive a report on what other cities have done when considering suspending their own council members facing criminal charges.
Councilman Hugo-Soto Martinez, who was appointed to replace Price as a member of the Rules Committee, concurred with his colleagues. He said the committee should have a “thorough and meticulous process.”