An arraignment date is pending for L.A. City Councilman Curren Price who has been charged with five counts of grand theft by embezzlement of government funds, three counts of perjury and two counts of conflict of interest. The charges against Price are the result of a thorough investigation into allegations of public corruption, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.
According to a criminal complaint, Price’s wife allegedly received payments totaling more than $150,000 between 2019 and 2021 from developers before he voted to approve projects. He also is accused of failing to list the money his wife received on government disclosure forms. In addition to having a financial interest in projects that he voted on, he is being charged with having the city pay for medical benefits for his now wife while he was still married to another woman.
“This alleged conduct undermines the integrity of our government and erodes the public’s trust in our elected officials,” Gascón said. “We will continue to work tirelessly to root out corruption at all levels and hold accountable those who betray the public’s trust.”
Price—who immediately stepped down as council president pro tem—also surrendered his committee assignments, including his chairmanship of the ad hoc committee on the 2028 Olympics—but remains on the L.A. City 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 wrote in the letter to City Council President Paul Krekorian.
On Wednesday, Krekorian introduced a motion to begin the process of suspending Price and said he was looking into the development projects the 72-year old councilman voted on to see if there were reasons for concern.
“I think it’s important that we say, right at the outset of all of this, that the presumption of innocence is not just a handy catchphrase,” Krekorian added. “It is a bedrock principle of the United States of America and our Constitution and it will be a bedrock principle going forward as a council.”
KBLA Talk Host Tavis Smiley cautioned against a rush to judgement.
“Why not allow Price to take a leave of absence?” Smiley remarked in his radio broadcast. “The city charter does not mandate that the council must suspend a member who wants to step aside and defend his or her good name.”
“It’s hard to know whether this is just a political takedown wrapped in a criminal complaint,” Smiley said. “Did it really take five years to build this case or is the timing politically expedient.”
Smiley went on to make the note the error in the media’s lumping the City Council corruption cases together.
“One size does not fit all. For example, in the case of MRT (Mark Ridley-Thomas), no public monies were at issue. There were no allegations of embezzlement. There were no perjury charges.”
Price—who was in his third term on the city council—has represented the city’s Ninth District since 2013.
Krekorian said on Wednesday that he intended to nominate Eighth District Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson as the permanent president pro tempore.
Harris-Dawson filed a motion of his own calling for the city attorney to report on options for selecting a voting representative for Price’s Council District 9 that would include input from residents of the district.