Heather Hutt’s nomination to serve as an interim member of the Los Angeles City Council moved forward in a committee hearing Wednesday, clearing the way for the council to consider her appointment to represent the 10th District.
The unanimous vote by the council’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee came a day after five members of the council — concerned by the process of the nomination — blocked consideration of Hutt’s appointment, forcing the matter to committee discussion.
The committee was chaired by Council President Nury Martinez, who nominated Hutt, and also included Councilmen Joe Buscaino and Mitch O’Farrell, both of whom supported a hearing for Hutt on Tuesday.
With committee approval, Hutt needs just eight votes to be appointed to the seat when her nomination comes before the council again. Because the committee had previously waived consideration, 10 votes were required for a public hearing on Tuesday. Nine council members voted in favor of the hearing after Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson raised an objection to the item, forcing a vote.
Hutt has been serving as the 10th 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 Wesson resigned last week, three days after a judge issued a preliminary injunction barring him from performing any official duties in response to a lawsuit challenging his eligibility.
At Wednesday’s meeting, committee members received confirmation from the City Attorney’s Office that the council would not be violating the city charter if it were to appoint Hutt. The council cannot delegate the decision to fill a temporary vacancy to another body, according to David Michaelson, chief assistant city attorney.
Martinez acknowledged Tuesday 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.”
If confirmed by the full council, Hutt would serve through the end of Ridley-Thomas’ term, unless Ridley-Thomas is acquitted or the charges against him are dismissed. Ridley-Thomas’ trial is scheduled for November.
Members of the public who called into the meeting were split on whether the council should appoint Hutt. Supporters cited her qualifications and the immediate need for the 10th District — which has been without voting representation since July 19 — to have a council member, while opponents believed the process of nominating Hutt was rushed and that the city needed to conduct more outreach.
Martinez voiced support for reviewing potential changes to the city charter to improve the process if “God forbid, there are any more indicted members of the City Council.”
The committee also voted to continue an item in committee on eligibility requirements as outlined by the city charter on filling temporary vacancies.
“In case we find ourselves in this very position in the future, we need to outline an actual process and I’d like to take a look at and review any changes to the charter to improve this process,” Martinez said.