The Los Angeles City Council did not consider the appointment of Heather Hutt Tuesday to serve as interim council member for the 10th District, with the item failing to receive the 10 votes required for a public hearing.
Council President Nury Martinez filed a motion Friday proposing the appointment of Hutt, who has been serving as the district’s non-voting caretaker and chief of staff for Herb Wesson. Wesson was appointed interim council member earlier this year to replace indicted Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, but he resigned last week.
Five council members — Bob Blumenfield, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Mike Bonin, Nithya Raman and Monica Rodriguez — voted against considering Hutt, whose nomination will be referred to the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee for further discussion.
Harris-Dawson raised an objection to Hutt’s nomination being considered at the start of Tuesday’s meeting, seeking to delay the consideration because he believed the council was skipping forward in the process. Harris-Dawson said rushing the process to appoint Hutt would do a disservice to her, calling Hutt’s reputation and track record “sterling.” That forced the council to take a vote on whether to consider the appointment.
“When we skip that process, which is what’s being proposed to us today, what it does is it calls into question the person who is being appointed and the process,” Harris-Dawson said.
He added that this predicament is unique because Ridley-Thomas could still return to the council if he is acquitted. Ridley-Thomas was suspended from the council last October, following his federal indictment on corruption charges.
“In that situation, you do all due diligence for the protection of the people in the 10th District, for the protection of Ms. Hutt, and for the protection of the reputation of this council,” Harris-Dawson said.
Martinez’s motion, seconded by four council members, touted Hutt’s background as a state director for then-Sen. Kamala Harris and the immediate need for District 10 to have a voting council member. Hutt would serve through the end of Ridley-Thomas’ term, unless Ridley-Thomas is acquitted or the charges against him are dismissed.
Since July 19, the district, which stretches from Koreatown to Leimert Park in South Los Angeles, has not had voting representation on the council because caretakers cannot act as voting members.
Harris-Dawson, Bonin and Rodriguez signed onto a dueling motion Friday calling for the council to consider a “full range of available scenarios” on how to proceed with filling the vacant seat.
They sought a report on the eligibility requirements for potential appointments the council could make to fill the temporary vacancy in 60 days. They also asked for a report on the costs and legality of a special election in the 10th District, as well as a process for selecting a voting representative that “includes public input from constituents and civic institutions of the district.”
The motion stated that the council should “thoroughly, transparently and expeditiously explore all options to make sure” District 10 has full representation, including a voting member.
Speaking in support of Harris-Dawson’s objection, Bonin cited other cities that have a longer process in considering candidates for vacant council seats.
“An up-or-down on one candidate is not a democracy,” Bonin said. “That’s what they did in the Soviet Union. Here in this country, we get to choose between various candidates, and I believe the residents of the 10th District deserve to have options.”
Rodriguez said accelerating the pace of Hutt’s nomination could land the city in similar legal trouble to Wesson’s situation. Wesson resigned Thursday, three days after a judge issued a preliminary injunction barring him from performing any official duties in response to a lawsuit challenging his eligibility. Wesson has already served three terms on the council.
“I just want to make sure that we are being very thoughtful, considering the process, and the conversations and the opportunities for us to sadly have to really consider the decisions that we’re making and how we make them,” Rodriguez said. “Because sadly we’ve had to make this decision multiple times on this council.”
The three council members who raised the opposing motion were joined by Blumenfield and Raman in blocking Hutt’s consideration. Blumenfield said he wanted to appoint Hutt, but had concerns over the process.
“We’re not just going to take a vote, close our eyes and move forward,” Blumenfield said. “This is a really important decision.”
Blumenfield added that he was open to the idea of holding a hearing, but Tuesday’s meeting “doesn’t feel like it.”
Despite Martinez urging her colleagues to support consideration of Hutt ahead of the vote, she came up one vote shy. She addressed Hutt — who attended the meeting — after the vote.
“I can tell you the hurdles that we women have to jump and to prove our qualifications over and over again,” Martinez said. “It’s unfortunate that when we’re living in a time where people say they want to empower women of color and they want to see us lead — you can see time and time again that it is an impediment for some of these folks to see us lead, because we don’t take leads from them. And that is what precisely this is about.”
Martinez added that she was sorry “a few did not have the courage to have this conversation and deal with merits of this Black woman that’s here today.”
The council president acknowledged that a true democratic process would be for Ridley-Thomas to resign and for the district to hold a special election to fill the seat.
“We cannot do that,” Martinez said. “Our hands are legally tied at this time.”
Council members Kevin de LeÃ³n, Gil Cedillo, Mitch O’Farrell and Paul Koretz seconded Martinez’s motion proposing to appoint Hutt.
“The appointment in itself is temporary,” de LeÃ³n said. “What this opportunity does is it gives (district) residents and voters a voice and a vote on issues that matter to them. To me, seems like democracy is working itself right now, openly and publicly in front of everybody, whether you’re for or against Heather Hutt. To me it doesn’t get more democratic than that.”