Price faced scrutiny over votes tied to his wife. He’s now charged over subsequent votes

Councilmember Curren Price, as president pro tempore, presiding over City Council meeting.
Councilmember Curren Price, as president pro tempore, presiding over Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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Four years ago, Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price was facing questions about the votes he had cast at City Hall — and whether they could financially benefit his spouse.

The Times had found that Price had repeatedly voted on matters that affected firms listed as clients of Del Richardson & Associates, the consulting firm owned by his wife. The company has had a host of clients, some of which would end up with matters before the City Council, including housing developers seeking to build new units for homeless people.

At the time, his spokesperson said Price had never cast a vote thinking of his financial interest and had, in fact, stepped away from votes that could have affected the consulting business run by Del Richardson.


Five months later, he cast a vote that would lead to one of the criminal charges now jeopardizing his political future.

The council member and his colleagues voted to green light issuing up to nearly $4.7 million in revenue bonds for a housing project tied to Thomas Safran & Associates — one of the Richardson clients that had been mentioned in The Times report months earlier.

Earlier that year, the Richardson consulting firm had gotten more than $35,000 from a company incorporated by Thomas Safran & Associates, according to a criminal complaint filed by the district attorney’s office. Price now faces felony charges for having a financial interest in that and other decisions he voted on at City Hall, according to the complaint.

His spokesperson, Angelina Valencia-Dumarot, said Tuesday that Price looked forward to defending himself and was a “long-standing public servant who has given his life to the city of Los Angeles,” but did not comment further Thursday. An attorney representing Thomas Safran & Associates said the company was “never aware of any conflict” involving Del Richardson and the votes.

With yet another colleague facing criminal charges, the City Council is weighing its third suspension vote in three years. This time around, council members are taking a more cautious approach.

June 14, 2023

Richardson had worked with the firm for more then three decades, well before marrying Price, and “was one of very few experts in her field,” said James W. Spertus, attorney for Thomas Safran & Associates.

“Any implication that there was payment for votes is entirely false,” he added, calling their company “a witness in this case.”


The criminal charges have derailed the third and final term of a politician who had emerged unscathed from earlier scandals at City Hall.

After FBI agents raided City Hall and hauled boxes of material away from the office of then-Councilman Jose Huizar five years ago, Price’s name turned up in a federal search warrant, but he was never charged in the sweeping corruption case that led to the indictment of Huizar and other City Hall figures.

Price told one acquaintance that the U.S. attorney’s office had told him he was not a target of the federal probe, telling the individual, who declined to be named to preserve his relationship with Price, “I have been cleared.” The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

When a leaked recording loaded with racist and incendiary remarks toppled then-Council President Nury Martinez, Price was a key figure in the conversation as Martinez talked about the redistricting process and helping him win reelection. Another participant — Councilman Kevin de León — claimed Price was supposed to be in that meeting, which he denied.

Price denounced the remarks and came out of the City Hall shakeup with a bigger title — president pro tempore. He gave up that title Tuesday, along with his roles on key council committees overseeing economic development and the Olympics.

“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,” he said in a letter to Council President Paul Krekorian.


Krekorian put forward a proposal Wednesday to suspend Price, which would strip him of his remaining duties, but did not seek an immediate vote, saying he wanted the councilmember to have an opportunity to respond to the charges.

For residents of the district, which hugs the 110 Freeway south of downtown and includes some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, the latest scandal was deflating.

Azusena Favela, a lifelong 9th District resident who works in philanthropy, called the charges against Price “heartbreaking.” For a district and a city “that has just gone through such turmoil with our council, this is really a big blow.”

Long before the criminal charges, Richardson told a city employee that the L.A. City Attorney’s Office seemed unsure about how to handle possible conflicts arising from her being a “working spouse” of a council member. In a 2015 email obtained by The Times, she recounted that at “one point I was told anyone I spoke to, worked with etc. that did or wanted to do any business with the city of L.A. while my husband was in office would be conflicted as long as he held office.”

“Then I was told that if I had a contract or relationship prior to him taking office I was OK. Then it was if I had an eight year history I was OK.”

Prosecutors did not spell out in their criminal complaint whether there is evidence that Price knew his votes could financially benefit him. When Price voted on bond funding for its housing project, Thomas Safran & Associates was not named in the item on the meeting agenda, but a staff report about the decision mentioned the development firm.


Even mistakes, “whether big or small, could have big ramifications in the public perception of our government,” said Rudy Espinoza, executive director of the nonprofit Inclusive Action. His group has advocated for sidewalk vendors, a cause Price has also championed.

If leaders are “careless about these things, it leaves it up to us to decide: Was Curren voting yes on those projects because of his wife, or because he really wanted them to pass and it would be good for the district?” Espinoza said.

Price has faced sharp disagreements over other development decisions: He had supported plans for the Reef, a $1.2-billion skyscraper complex that critics argued would fuel gentrification, and backed digital billboards on that site over the objections of city planning commissioners. Companies tied to the developer spent money to support his re-election.

Unlike the public uproar over the Reef, the fateful votes that led to felony charges for Price happened with little fanfare. Neither of the projects involved was in his council district. Among them was a decision to reduce the price of a city property on Crenshaw Boulevard by $589,000. Failing to do so could put the housing developer at risk of losing more than $16.5 million in tax credits, city officials wrote.

The housing developer that bought the Crenshaw Boulevard property had paid the Richardson firm more than $46,000 in 2020, but Price failed to list the company on his disclosures that year, according to the district attorney’s complaint. In May 2020, Price voted with the rest of the council to sell the property to the company, and the following summer, he joined the unanimous vote to slash the sales price.

“I’m just really trying to understand — how do you make some of these mistakes or these decisions?” Favela said, referring to the allegations in the criminal complaint. When the votes came up, “why not recuse yourself? It wasn’t like a vote that would tip one way or the other.”


Price was also charged with perjury for failing to list four Del Richardson & Associates clients on his financial disclosures. And half of the 10 criminal counts were for embezzlement, for allegedly getting the city to pay for nearly $34,000 in medical premiums for Richardson between 2013 and 2017.

The problem, prosecutors said, was that she was not legally his wife at that time. Although the councilman listed her as his wife on the city forms, he was not married to Richardson during that period because he had never divorced another woman, prosecutors allege — an imbroglio that had already spurred embarrassing headlines for Price.

Price married Lynn Suzette Green in Annandale, Va. in 1981, according to Virginia Department of Health records. The couple at one point lived in the Morningside Park neighborhood of Inglewood and ran a print shop, according to Times coverage in 1997.

Price, who had served on the Inglewood City Council, also ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Inglewood that year. One year later, the couple jointly filed for bankruptcy protection, and the marriage eventually faltered: The two separated in May 2002, according to court documents, and Price filed papers to initiate divorce proceedings in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2006 — the same year he joined the California State Assembly. He refiled the action in 2011, after he had become a state senator.

In financial disclosures filed after Price was elected to the City Council a decade ago, he referred to Del Richardson & Associates as belonging to his spouse. When he ran for reelection in 2017, his campaign materials said he was married to Richardson.

“His marriage to Del seemed to make all the difference in his life and provided him with energy,” said Daniel Tabor, a former Inglewood mayor and councilman who has known Price since high school. He declined to comment on the charges, but defended Price as “a person of integrity.”


In Inglewood, Richardson established a reputation decades ago as a “number cruncher” who was hired by government agencies for consulting services and to help people facing eminent domain so they could be compensated for their property, political consultants familiar with her work told The Times. Richardson previously told The Times that her firm long predated her relationship with the councilman.

By the time Price had begun serving on the L.A. City Council, her clients included housing developers, construction and engineering firms and government agencies such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the L.A. City public works department, according to official disclosures. Her work has involved relocating tenants who are being displaced by development projects.

After questions were raised about his marriages, representatives for Price said that he was operating under the assumption that his divorce had been finalized. Court records show the divorce was not yet finalized until early 2018.

When The Times asked when and where he married Richardson, Price declined to provide those details, saying that his spouse was a recent victim of identity theft and had been advised not to reveal such information. Later that year, the district attorney’s office confirmed it was reviewing a complaint about Price and his two marriages.

Price and Richardson were not legally married until May 2018 in Idaho, according to the criminal complaint. Neither Suzette Price nor Del Richardson responded to requests for comment about the charges against the councilman.


There could have been confusion over divorce dates, but “knowing Curren, I don’t believe there was any intent to defraud,” said Harvey Englander, a public affairs consultant who counted Price as a client when he served on the Inglewood City Council.

But the broader allegations have left others skeptical that misunderstanding alone could explain them. Price had already been questioned about possible problems with voting on matters affecting Richardson clients, and should have “erred on the side of caution,” said Sean McMorris, program manager for transparency, ethics and accountability at California Common Cause.

“He didn’t do that,” McMorris said. “I typically will give politicians the benefit of the doubt on complicated laws like these. But when it happens over and over again, and publications are bringing it to their attention? It’s simply beyond the pale.”