It has been four days since reports surfaced about an audio recording of Los Angeles City Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo making racist and offensive remarks about fellow councilmember Mike Bonin’s Black son, and calls for resignations have only intensified.
Martinez became first of the three to officially resign from her seat on the council on Wedenesday, leaving de León and Cedillo as the focus of protests over the leaked audio scandal that has shaken the city.
On Thursday afternoon, acting City Council President Mitch O’Farrell cancelled Friday’s City Council meeting, saying that the people’s business could not be conducted until the two councilmen officially resign from their seats.
Martinez announced the decision in a lengthy statement that did not directly address the firestorm that began on Sunday when the recording was made public and immediately led to demands for her resignation.
People from Mayor Garcetti to President Biden have asked for Nury Martinez and all of the councilmembers involved in the conversations to resign. Martinez’s resignation from the City Council is seen as the next step in a long road to healing. Alex Rozier reports for the NBC4 News on Oct. 12, 2022.
“It is with a broken heart that I resign my seat for Council District 6, the community I grew up in and my home,” she said in her 11-page statement, which touted accomplishments during her tenure.
The former councilwoman said on Tuesday that she was taking a “leave of absence” from her seat. Martinez, who assumed office in 2013 and became president in January 2020, stepped down from her seat as council president on Monday.
Her resignation came after pressure from the public, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, and President Joe Biden. Several city leaders spoke out after her statement to say they supported the decision.
“I take no joy in her resigning today,” said LA City Councilman Bob Blumenfield. “It is a necessary and important step, but it is not a joyful one. For her, I hope she gets the help that she needs.”
Those city leaders also called for the resignation of de León and Cedillo, who as of Thursday morning had not resigned from their seats on City Council.
“We need Mr. Cedillo and Mr. de León to resign their positions so this city can move on,” O’Farrell said.
“For Los Angeles to heal, and for its City Council to govern, there must be accountability,” O’Farrell said. “The resignation of Councilmember Nury Martinez is the first, necessary step in that process. To that end, I repeat my call on Councilmembers de Leon and Cedillo to also resign. There is no other way forward.”
The recorded October 2021 conversation at the center of the scandal involved Martinez, Cedillo and de León, and Ron Herrera, a top LA County labor official. Their discussion about redistricting included several racist comments regarding the 2-year-old adopted Black son of Councilman Mike Bonin.
Redistricting takes place every ten years in Los Angeles, following the U.S. Census count of the population.
“…The Los Angeles City Charter requires that district boundaries for the City Council be redrawn so that each district is as equal in population as possible and practicable so that communities have equal access to political representation,” the city’s website says.
The districts drawn every ten years determine where LA residents can vote and who might represent them.
The last redistricting effort took place in 2021. The conversation in the leaked audio recording took place in October of that year.
Among other comments in the conversation, Martinez belittled Bonin and criticized the child for his behavior at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, saying Bonin’s son was misbehaving on a float, which might have tipped over if she and the other women on the float didn’t step in to “parent this kid.”
“They’re raising him like a little white kid,” Martinez said. “I was like, ‘this kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I’ll bring him back.'”
Martinez also called the child “ese changuito,” Spanish for “that little monkey.”
De León also criticized Bonin. “Mike Bonin won’t f—ing ever say peep about Latinos. He’ll never say a f—ing word about us.”
De León also compared Bonin’s handling of his son at the MLK Parade to “when Nury brings her little yard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag.”
“Su negrito, like on the side,” Martinez added, using a Spanish term for a Black person that’s considered demeaning by many.
Martinez also took aim at Los Angeles County District George Gascón inprofane terms, after the group appeared to discuss whether Gascón would endorse Cedillo in his re-election campaign against Eunessis Hernandez.
“F— that guy. (inaudible)…He’s with the Blacks,” she said of Gascón.
All three member issued public apologies over the weekend, but de León and Cedillo have not mentioned plans to step down.
Aside from the numerous offensive comments and racial slurs, the leaked audio recording also included discussion of efforts to replace Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has been indicted on federal corruption charges.
Also on Wednesday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta launched an independent investigation into the Los Angeles’s City Council redistricting process, stating that the leaked audio conversation called the integrity of that process into question.
“The decennial redistricting process is foundational for our democracy and for the ability of our communities to make their voices heard — and it must be above reproach,” Bonta said in a statement. “The leaked audio has cast doubt on a cornerstone of our political processes for Los Angeles.”
The state AG’s office will investigate “whether there were any violations of state or federal voting rights laws and transparency laws,” in an effort “consistent with the Attorney General’s authority under the California Government Code and the California Constitution.”
The Council will move forward with a caretaker appointment in the Sixth Council District, which includes the San Fernando Valley communities of North Hollywood, Sun Valley, Van Nuys, Lake Balboa, Panorama City, Pacoima and Arleta.