With Price facing felony charges, L.A. Council looks at suspending a colleague yet again

Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian stands at a podium.
Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian discusses his response to the criminal case filed against Councilmember Curren Price.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

On the day in 2020 that Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar was arrested by FBI agents, his colleagues moved within hours to suspend him, stripping him of his duties before he had even entered a plea.

A year later, the City Council took the same action with Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, suspending him one week after he had been indicted on his own set of federal corruption charges.

Now, with yet another colleague facing criminal charges, council members are weighing their third suspension vote in three years. But this time around, they are taking a more cautious approach to that decision.


On Wednesday, Council President Paul Krekorian said he wants the council to take up a proposal for suspending Councilmember Curren Price, who has been charged with embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest. But instead of calling for an immediate vote, he said council members should let Price first respond to the charges.

Council members should also listen to residents of Price’s South Los Angeles district, and carefully weigh the “real world consequences” of a suspension on his constituents before casting their vote, Krekorian said.

“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 said Wednesday. “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.”

In a charging document filed this week, the L.A. County District Attorney’s office alleged that Price violated the state’s conflict-of-interest law by casting votes on affordable housing projects developed by companies that employed his wife, Del Richardson Price, as a consultant. Prosecutors also said Price also committed perjury, by failing to list some of his wife’s income on his government financial disclosure forms.

L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price was charged with embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

June 13, 2023

Price also has been accused of receiving tens of thousands of dollars in medical benefits from the city for his now wife while he was still married to another woman.

In the wake of those charges, Price resigned from each of his council committees and stepped down from his leadership post, where he served as No. 2 under Krekorian. Price called the charges “unwarranted” and said through a spokesperson that he will fight them, but has not provided a more specific rebuttal.


Under the City Charter, the council has no authority to remove Price. If he is convicted of a felony, he would automatically be forced from office. If he were to resign, the council would have the power to call a special election.

The City Charter does give the council power to suspend any elected city official who has been charged with a felony while they await trial. But that step comes with its own set of political risks — a lesson city leaders learned in the wake of Ridley-Thomas’ indictment.

If Price is suspended, Krekorian could decide to appoint a nonvoting caretaker to fill the seat while Price’s case plays out. But that would leave his district without a voting member on the council. The council could vote instead to appoint a temporary voting member. But that would pave the way for an unelected representative to make decisions on behalf of Price’s constituents.

Krekorian, appearing before reporters Wednesday, made clear that he intends to move at a slower pace, requiring that any suspension vote receive a thorough vetting from the council’s rules committee — something that did not occur with Huizar and Ridley-Thomas.

“This will not be a process that will be rushed through, as has happened in the past,” he said.

Despite introducing the suspension motion, Krekorian declined to say whether he intends to vote to suspend Price. Others at City Hall said a suspension is warranted.


“My role is not to cast judgments here,” said Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martínez, who represents Hollywood, Silver Lake and other nearby neighborhoods. “But when the time comes, I plan to join my colleagues in voting to suspend Mr. Price from his role as council member.”

Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield and Tim McOsker said they would vote to strip Price of his council duties.

“My position today is that a suspension is the appropriate action,” McOsker said. “But I’m also going to respect the process.”

Price, who began his third term in December, does not leave office until 2026.

If he is suspended, and the council chooses a temporary replacement for him, two of the council’s 15 members — both representing South L.A. — will have been installed without an election.

The 10th District, whose voters elected Ridley-Thomas in 2020, has gone without an elected representative since October 2021, when he was indicted.

At one point last year, council members named former Councilmember Herb Wesson as a temporary voting representative for the district. But that decision was later blocked by a judge amid fierce criticism from some of the district’s residents, who said they should have been the ones to choose their representative.


The council later tapped former legislative aide Heather Hutt to serve as a temporary replacement for Ridley-Thomas. Some in the district again pushed back, saying they had been disenfranchised. After a jury convicted Ridley-Thomas of seven felony counts, Hutt’s time in the seat was extended to December 2024. (Ridley-Thomas has challenged the verdict and is seeking a new trial.)

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, argued forcefully against a suspension of Price.

“He represents the poorest, most underserved, mostly Black and Latino City Council district,” said Hutchinson, who lives in an unincorporated section of South L.A. “Suspending him would further disenfranchise the district’s constituents.”

Former Councilmember Jan Perry, who represented Price’s district from 2001 to 2013, voiced similar concerns, saying a suspension would deprive residents of the 9th District of representation. The council should not repeat the “stumbling” that occurred at City Hall in the wake of Ridley-Thomas’ indictment, she said.

“Needless to say, I’m pretty upset. The people who live in [Price’s district] already go through a lot on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “And to add this on top of that is just infuriating.”


Adriana Cabrera, president of the Central Alameda Neighborhood Council, said she too is angry, not just over the criminal case against Price, but the overall state of his district. But Cabrera, who ran as a write-in candidate against Price last year, said she feels a suspension vote is not enough.

“We need him to resign,” she said.

The council will likely need to decide Price’s fate before the end of the month, when its members go on a three-week summer recess. Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky, who represents part of the Westside, said she has already gone through the D.A.’s charging document, and found the case to be “pretty straightforward.”

“I’m angry, I’m sad, and I’m sick and tired of this happening,” she said. “We need stronger conflict-of-interest laws. They need to be enforced.”