LA WATCHDOG - Jose Huizar, Mitch Englander, and Mark Ridley-Thomas. Nury Martinez, Kevin de Leon, and Gil Cedillo. And now Councilman Curren Price joins this illustrious group of disgraced members of the Los Angeles City Council.
On Tuesday, Price was charged with five counts of embezzlement, three counts of perjury, and two counts of conflict of interest.
The five embezzlement charges revolve around the receipt of almost $34,000 in medical benefits from the City over a five year period for his now wife, Del Richardson, while his divorce from his previous wife was not finalized. One thought is for Price to reimburse the City for the amount of the medical benefits and claim that it was an “honest” mistake by this bigamist.
The other five counts of perjury and conflict of interest involve Price’s failure to disclose in his required financial filings the business interests of his wife, Del Richardson, while at the same time, voting in favor of affordable housing projects for which she was paid over $150,000.
While Price claims the charges are “unwarranted” and that he intends to mount a vigorous defense, City Council President Paul Krekorian filed a motion, seconded by Marqueece Harris-Dawson, to suspend Price. This would involve the Council’s review of the charges against Price and a subsequent yes or no vote on suspension.
As part of its deliberations, the City Council should conduct a thorough investigation of transactions involving the Richardson and the City, including those on which Price cast a vote. According to a 2019 article in the Los Angeles Times, “Price voted on decisions involving at least 10 companies in the same years they were listed as providing at least $10,000 in income to Del Richardson & Associates.” This would include two controversial large developments in Hollywood.
The City Council should also investigate several questionable real estate deals in Price’s Council District 9, including those involving billboards, the Convention Center, hotels, and other developments.
The Los Angeles Times has rightly called for the resignation of Current Price. But if he resigns, the battle to replace him in a district that 78% Latino may have significant racial overtones.
Once again, this corruption is another cry for real reform. This includes independent redistricting; an independent, empowered Ethics Commission; campaign finance reform; open and transparent labor negotiations; and increased oversight and transparency involving land use decisions.
But do the City Council and the Mayor have the will to reform City Hall and withstand the pressure from the real estate industry, the public sector unions, and other entrenched interests? Or will we just have more of the same?
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: [email protected].)