A Los Angeles City Council member was charged on Tuesday with embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest, becoming the latest in a procession of elected city leaders to have been accused of corruption.
Prosecutors said that Curren Price, 72, a former state legislator who has represented South Los Angeles on the City Council for a decade, voted on projects that benefited developers who paid his wife’s consulting business a total of more than $150,000 between 2019 and 2021. The allegations were tied to three counts of perjury and two counts of conflict of interest.
Mr. Price was also accused of improperly receiving almost $34,000 in medical coverage for his current wife while he was still legally married to another woman, resulting in five embezzlement charges.
“This alleged conduct undermines the integrity of our government and trust in our elected officials,” George Gascón, the Los Angeles County district attorney, said in a statement. “We will continue to work tirelessly to root out corruption at all levels.”
Angelina Valencia-Dumarot, a spokeswoman for Mr. Price, said on Tuesday afternoon that his City Council office was “completely blindsided” by the charges.
Less than two hours later, Mr. Price stepped down as the president pro tempore and relinquished his committee assignments, although he did not resign from his seat.
“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 wrote in a letter to the City Council president, Paul Krekorian. “I look forward to having the opportunity to continue to be a strong voice for our culturally rich South Central, a part of our city that has long been disenfranchised, overlooked and forgotten.”
Mr. Price’s term ends in 2026. Mr. Krekorian said in a statement that he would introduce a motion to start the process of suspending Mr. Price from the Council, though the city charter does not allow for a member to be removed or replaced unless convicted.
An arraignment has not yet been scheduled, and Mr. Price has not been arrested. A spokeswoman for Mr. Gascón said that under the State Constitution, Mr. Price did not need to be taken into custody because there was nothing to suggest that he would be a flight risk or a danger to the community.
Los Angeles city officials have faced numerous scandals in recent years, distracting from efforts to address homelessness and gaping economic inequality.
“The mayor has yet to review the charges filed earlier today, but she is saddened by this news,” Zach Seidl, a spokesman for Mayor Karen Bass, said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.
In March, Mark Ridley-Thomas, a former City Council member, was convicted on charges that as a Los Angeles County supervisor he supported millions of dollars in public contracts for the University of Southern California in exchange for graduate school admission and tuition for his son. He was suspended from the Council after he was indicted in 2021.
Mr. Ridley-Thomas became the third council member in less than four years to be convicted of corruption. Mitchell Englander and José Huizar, both former councilmen, previously pleaded guilty to charges related to developer bribes in a federal case.
In October, three council members and a prominent labor leader were heard on secretly recorded audio from 2021 disparaging several racial and ethnic groups as they discussed ways to draw district boundaries to their benefit.
The recording revealed the flimsiness of the city’s self-conception as a place where different racial and ethnic groups can equitably share power. The four leaders heard on the recording were Latino, and they engaged in bald strategizing about how to increase Latino power in Los Angeles, particularly at the expense of Black politicians.
Ron Herrera, then the leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, was the first to resign amid the subsequent outcry. Nury Martinez stepped down as Council president soon after, leaving residents of her district without representation for months. The other two council members heard on the recording, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, did not step down. But Mr. Cedillo had already lost his re-election bid by the time the audio surfaced; he left office last year.
The New York Times