Soros-Backed DA Called ‘the Media and the Asians’ Her Enemy, Lawsuit Alleges

Alameda County district attorney Pamela Price faces recall election

Pamela Price (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
June 14, 2024

Pamela Price, the Oakland area’s district attorney once backed by billionaire George Soros, allegedly called "the media and the Asians" her enemy and "fostered and encouraged a racist environment" in her office, according to a lawsuit from her former spokeswoman. She also hid and altered public records she didn’t want released, the suit alleges.

The complaint alleges that Price racially discriminated against Patricia Lee, who is Asian American, and fired her for refusing to withhold public records from journalists. Lee’s lawsuit also claims anti-Asian discrimination factored into her firing, and details how Price tried to suppress and delete documents and emails requested by reporters.

The "reason for Ms. Lee’s termination is because she engaged in a protected activity by refusing to illegally withhold records and by complaining about the Alameda County district attorney’s office’s illegal withholding of records in violation of [California public records law]," the complaint states.

Lee’s attorney Nicholas Roxborough said in a statement that he found it "shocking" that Price as a public official would try to silence her staff "for refusing to participate in a coverup." He added that "after brief settlement discussions, it became clear that something is very amiss … in Ms. Price’s office."

A representative for the district attorney said the office "cannot comment on personnel matters."

The complaint comes as Price faces a recall election after just a year and a half in office. While she has collected $29,000 from some of California’s wealthy progressive donors this year to help fend off the recall, she has also drawn fire from the public and press for giving her boyfriend a high-paying job in her office, cutting lenient plea deals for murderers, and claiming her position has "no impact on crime." Soros gave Price $130,000 for her initial failed 2018 bid to become district attorney. Price eked out a narrow win in 2022.

Throughout her short tenure she has angered the local Asian community by reducing charges for offenders with Asian victims, particularly a toddler who was shot in gang crossfire. She further angered people by sending an email addressed "to the Chinese communities" about the toddler’s murder case saying that "certain vocal members of the local Chinese community and the media have misled the public about our process."

Last month, Price scheduled—and then abruptly canceled—a press conference to announce her Chinese name. Last year she unveiled a Cantonese name translating to a "kind or good" and "pure or virginity" government official in a Chinese-language newspaper—a move that some constituents criticized as racist and a bid to curry favor with Asian voters. One Cantonese speaker at the time said the characters she chose could mean "a nice virgin bureaucrat," the Daily Mail reported.

Price allegedly tried to suppress records requested about her decision to bar a local reporter from a press conference, according to the lawsuit, and Price retaliated by firing Lee when the former spokeswoman voiced concerns about the coverup. Lee also describes an environment of racial hostility.

"Ms. Lee experienced a clear anti-Asian sentiment during her employment, where she would frequently hear derogatory comments about her race made by supervisory employees, including by District Attorney Pamela Price herself," the complaint says. "Indeed, Ms. Price would constantly and openly make derogatory remarks against Asian Americans."