Monday, April 15, 2024

L.A. city councilman’s former aide files retaliation claim

A former longtime aide to Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price alleges in a claim filed against the city that she was fired from her job after Price staffers accused her of being a “snitch” in the criminal case brought against the councilman by L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón.

Angie Reyes English, a former senior field deputy for Price, filed the claim on Feb 1. Such claims are typically lodged before a formal lawsuit.

The four-page claim, which was reviewed by The Times, alleges that Reyes English faced intimidation by Price and his team and was eventually dismissed from her job in January.

Angelina Valencia-Dumarot, a Price spokesperson, denied the former staffer’s allegations. In fact, Reyes English had been the subject of complaints from Price’s staff, Valencia-Dumarot said.

“We deny these baseless allegations and have been working closely with [the city’s Personnel Department] on this matter for months,” Valencia-Dumarot said in a statement. “Last year, several district office staff members lodged separate formal complaints [with the Personnel Department] citing Angie Reyes English’s harassing and threatening behavior, which caused some to become anxious and depressed.”

Attorney Greg Smith, who represents Reyes English, said his client is “unaware of any complaints, and has never been notified of any complaints, formal or informal, against her.”

Reyes English serves in Hawthorne as mayor pro tem and a City Council member, according to that city’s website. She declined an interview request.

She worked for Price for 17 years, according to her complaint. Price, a Democrat, previously served in the state Senate and Assembly.

Ivor Pine, a spokesperson for Los Angeles City Atty. Hydee Feldstein Soto, declined to comment on the claim.

Gascón charged Price in June 2023 with 10 counts of embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest. The charges relate to medical benefits that his wife, Del Richardson Price, received from the city and votes that the councilman cast that allegedly benefited his wife’s business.

Price has vigorously denied the charges.

Reyes English’s claim alleges that nearly two weeks after the district attorney’s office filed its case against Price, the councilman’s “right-hand man,” Jose Ugarte — a deputy chief of staff — called Reyes English and told her that he and other Price confidants believed she was a “whistleblower” and had disclosed information to “government agencies.”

The next day, Reyes English told her supervisors and human resources representatives that she had been “intimidated” by those who thought she was the “snitch,” according to her claim.

Price and others “retaliated” against Reyes English, according to her claim. She was placed on “involuntary medical leave” for about 3½ months starting July 1, 2023.

When she returned to work, she said, “additional actions were taken to intimidate, harass, and harm” her. She was terminated from her job on Jan. 9, according to the claim.

The district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about her claim.

Price is due back in court in early March. Last month, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge denied a request from Price’s defense team to throw out the case against him on the grounds that the prosecution had failed to prove Price’s votes were motivated by his wife’s business dealings.

Price’s defense attorney, Michael Schafler, had also argued that prosecutors inappropriately filed embezzlement charges when Price’s alleged conduct related to his wife’s health insurance did not meet the definition of the crime under California law.

Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.

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