L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price accused of 21 violations of city ethics laws

Curren Price, right, adjusts his tie while standing next to his lawyer David Willingham
Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price, right, appears in court with his attorney, David Willingham, in July.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission has privately accused City Councilmember Curren Price of voting on a number of matters in which his wife had a financial interest, echoing charges filed last year by L.A. County prosecutors, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.

The commission, which has the power to enforce conflict-of-interest laws, notified Price of the accusations last week, according to the sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

One of the sources said the filing accuses Price of 21 violations of the city’s ethics laws, many of them similar to those filed by Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón against Price last year.


In the criminal case, Price is accused of voting to support projects for developers that had done business with a consulting company founded by his wife, Del Richardson Price, who specialized in tenant relocation services. He faces five counts of embezzlement, two counts of conflict of interest and three counts of perjury.

The allegations from the Ethics Commission mostly involve violations of conflict-of-interest laws or the council member’s failure to fully disclose economic interests he held in relation to Richardson Price’s business, according to one of the sources.

Ethics Commission spokesperson Nancy Jackson said this week that city law bars the department from confirming or denying the existence of a complaint or investigation.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office and an attorney for Price declined to comment.

The violations alleged by the ethics commission cover a larger span of time than the criminal complaint, which focuses on the period between 2019 and 2021, one source said.

In a court filing earlier this year, L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Casey Higgins made references to other instances where Price allegedly had a conflict, voting on projects whose developers paid Richardson Price as far back as 2015. It was not clear why those instances did not result in criminal charges.


The Ethics Commission typically holds an evidentiary hearing after an accusation is publicly issued. Commission members then determine whether the alleged violations occurred and, if so, what penalties should apply. The document Price was served with is known as a “probable cause report,” the sources said.

In the criminal complaint filed last year, prosecutors alleged Price voted on matters connected to his wife’s business and perjured himself by failing to reveal his financial interest in those matters on disclosure forms that must be filed with the city.

Prosecutors said Price voted on two affordable housing projects whose developers paid his wife more than $150,000 between 2019 and 2021. Neither project is in Price’s district. One is on the Westside, and the other is in South Los Angeles.

Price also faces embezzlement charges for obtaining spousal health benefits for Richardson Price through the city while he was still legally married to his first wife.

Last year, some of Price’s allies said they believed the allegations against him should have been handled by the Ethics Commission, not the district attorney’s office.

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 has repeatedly declared his innocence. His lawyer has said that prosecutors failed to show that the developers’ payments to his wife’s consulting company had any influence on his votes on those projects. The votes cast by Price were routine and noncontroversial, on proposals that passed by large majorities, according to Price’s lawyer, Michael Schafler.


A judge rejected Price’s bid to have the case thrown out earlier this year. A trial date has not been set.

Last month, a former aide to Price filed a civil claim against the city alleging the council member’s staff harassed her on the belief that she was a “snitch” and had cooperated with the district attorney’s investigation. The woman, Hawthorne City Councilmember Angie Reyes English, said she suffered retaliation at work and ultimately was fired in January, according to the suit.

Her attorney, Greg Smith, told The Times that Price’s office had the false opinion that Reyes English was a whistleblower who went to the district attorney.

A spokeswoman for Price has denied Reyes English’s allegations.

At a court hearing earlier this month, Higgins expressed concern that Price and his allies might be improperly interacting with witnesses in the case. Higgins said he had received information that Richardson Price “hired lawyers for witnesses,” including one person who is now refusing to speak with prosecutors.

“That raises some concerns for us ... they shouldn’t be talking to any potential witnesses except for an attorney of record,” Higgins said.

Richardson Price didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Schafler, the attorney for Price, denied “the suggestion of any impropriety relating to any witnesses in this case.” He declined to say if Richardson Price had actually retained counsel for any potential witnesses.


Price is one of several city council members to face criminal charges in recent years. In 2020, former Councilmember Mitchell Englander pleaded guilty to providing false information to federal investigators. He served a short stint in prison.

Former Councilmember Jose Huizar was recently sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to racketeering and tax evasion charges. Meanwhile, a jury convicted former Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud charges last year. He has appealed the verdict.

The Ethics Commission has a separate case against Councilmember John Lee, who has been accused of violating laws regulating the acceptance of gifts and the reporting of those gifts. Lee has been fighting that case, which could result in financial penalties.

Voters in his northwest San Fernando Valley district reelected Lee to another four-year term earlier this month.

Price is due back in court in late April, when the Los Angeles city attorney’s office is expected to try to quash a subpoena from prosecutors seeking communications between the city attorney’s office and Price. The city attorney’s office has argued the materials are protected by attorney-client privilege.