Friday’s scheduled Los Angeles City Council meeting will not take place, with Acting Council President Mitch O’Farrell saying the “people’s business cannot be conducted” until Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo resign their council seats.
O’Farrell made that announcement Thursday, as the wait continued for de León and Cedillo to step down in the aftermath of the City Hall racism scandal.
De León and Cedillo were included in a recorded October 2021 conversation in which racist statements were made as four officials discussed the city’s redistricting process. Nury Martinez, the former council president, and Ron Herrera, who was president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, have both already resigned following the release of the recording.
Two earlier Los Angeles City Council meetings this week were delayed or adjourned due to vocal protests over the statements heard on the tape — and, short of de León and Cedillo stepping down, it’s not known when the council will next convene.
Under normal circumstances, it would meet on Tuesday at 10 a.m.
“In the court of public opinion, the verdict has been rendered and they must resign,” O’Farrell said of de León and Cedillo. “There’s too much pain, there’s too much deep injury to the soul, to the spirit in the city. And this must happen and the people have spoken.”
At least two council members — Councilmen Mike Bonin and Marqueece Harris-Dawson — and Councilwoman-elect Eunisses Hernandez had said prior to O’Farrell’s news briefing Thursday that the council should not meet Friday without resignations from de León and Cedillo.
Hernandez wrote on Twitter on Thursday that Cedillo, who she beat in the June primary to claim the seat, was holding the city hostage.
“Community will not stop until they resign,” she said. “Gil knows this.”
O’Farrell said he had not spoken to either de León or Cedillo on Thursday, but he had a frank and lengthy conversation with Cedillo on Wednesday.
“He made it very clear he is taking into consideration the gravity of the moment and ultimately what he is going to need to do,” O’Farrell said of Cedillo.
O’Farrell said he has not been able to reach de León.
O’Farrell said he hasn’t yet considered canceling meetings beyond Friday, and his office said he will “assess all available options moving forward” if the two continue to refuse to resign.
The council on Friday was slated to consider placing a measure on the 2024 ballot that would create an independent redistricting commission for the city, an item that was already carried over from Wednesday’s adjourned meeting.
The acting council president noted that he has the support of Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has also called for resignations.
O’Farrell said he sensed that de León and Cedillo were both “weighing their long history in politics and public service and reconciling this transgression with that.”
De León, 55, has been on the council since 2020 and made an unsuccessful run for mayor this year. He previously served in the state Senate and Assembly. Cedillo, 68, has been in office since 2013.
O’Farrell added: “One thing is clear: They need to put all of that past them and resign right now.”
Both are under widespread pressure to do so following the weekend release of a recorded conversation from 2021 involving the three elected officials that included a series of racist remarks, uttered primarily by Martinez.
Under intense pressure, Martinez on Monday stepped down as council president, took a leave of absence on Tuesday, then resigned her seat altogether on Wednesday.
“It is with a broken heart that I resign my seat for Council District 6, the community I grew up in and my home,” Martinez said in a written statement Wednesday afternoon.
Her lengthy statement made no direct reference to the recording that damaged her political career, nor did it include an apology to Councilman Mike Bonin or any of the communities she directed racist slurs at in the tape — although she said, “To my staff — I’m sorry that we’re ending it this way. This is no reflection on you. I know you all will continue to do great work and fight for our district. I’ll be cheering you on.”
In a statement moments after Martinez’s announcement, O’Farrell said Martinez’s resignation is the “first, necessary step in the process” of accountability. When asked later by reporters about Martinez’s statement excluding those apologies, O’Farrell said: “I noticed that.”
In the recorded conversation from October 2021, Martinez made racist comments aimed at Bonin’s 2-year-old Black adopted son and at other ethnic groups while the group discussed the politically sensitive process of redrawing council district boundaries.
The recorded conversation was leaked, appearing on Reddit before being removed from the website. City News Service reviewed the conversation, but it was unclear who was responsible for the recording and its leak. The meeting apparently occurred at a Federation of Labor office, and the federation is investigating its source.
Martinez issued a statement Monday announcing her decision to surrender the council presidency, and apologizing to Bonin, his husband Sean Arian and their son.
At a news briefing Wednesday afternoon, several council members again expressed shock at the racist comments revealed in the recording involving their longtime colleagues, and implored the two remaining embattled council members to resign.
“When someone is being bullied, those around the bully have an obligation to step in and stop the bullying,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, when asked of Cedillo’s being in the room but not partaking in making racist comments.
Councilman Bob Blumenfield said he hopes Martinez “gets the help that she needs.”
“The revelations of this tape showed a very hateful heart and a disdain for others in a sick way,” Blumenfield said.
Blumenfield added that the council needs to put together a leadership team that “leads instead of trying to rule.”
Councilman Paul Koretz tried to isolate the incident to those on the recording.
“People out there will think this represents the conversation that council has,” Koretz said. “I’m here to assure you: This is not the council. This is those three people.”
Councilman Curren Price said Martinez’s resignation signals “the beginning of the end of this nightmare that she, along with Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo created for our city.”
“This sad chapter has left a permanent stain on our City Council, forever changing the face of L.A. politics,” Price said.
At least two council members — Krekorian and Harris-Dawson — signaled an intent to have a special election for Martinez’s seat, as well as de LeÃ³n’s seat if he resigns. Both of their terms expire in December 2024. O’Farrell appointed the city’s chief legislative analyst as a caretaker for Martinez’s district, and said he is exploring a possible special election to fill the seat. Martinez’s term runs through December 2024.
Since Cedillo lost his re-election bid to Hernandez earlier this year, Krekorian suggested swearing in Hernandez immediately if Cedillo resigns.
On Wednesday morning, O’Farrell was forced to adjourn the council meeting before it even began, with protesters chanting and shouting in the council chamber for Martinez, De León and Cedillo to resign.
O’Farrell called several recesses in hopes of quieting the crowd, but the protesters refused to relent. After about an hour, O’Farrell announced that the meeting was being adjourned, with all items on the agenda postponed until Friday’s scheduled meeting.
O’Farrell said it will be nearly impossible for the council to conduct its business until all three council members involved in the taped conversation resign.
“It’s holding us up from moving forward,” he said. “The emotions are only going to flare up more and more and more. This is not going to calm down. It’s at a boiling point. It’s boiling over.”
Michael Hunt, one of the protesters who showed up at Wednesday’s meeting, said activists plan on returning to disrupt meetings until the council members resign.
“People want the City Council to do the work of the people, not the work of name-calling,” Hunt said.
Calls for resignations have been almost universal among city, state and federal elected officials — including from President Joe Biden, who arrived in Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon for a two-day visit.
Martinez, 49, had served on the council since 2013 representing the Sixth District in the San Fernando Valley. She was the second Latina to serve on the council and was its only female member when she was elected. Six years later, she became the first Latina to become council president when she was elected in 2019, replacing long-time President Herb Wesson.
Prior to being elected to the council, Martinez served on the San Fernando City Council from 2003-09 and on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education from 2009-2013.
Among other comments in the recorded conversation, Martinez belittled Bonin, who is white and openly gay, and criticized his adopted Black son for his behavior at a Martin Luther King Day parade, saying the boy was misbehaving on a float, which might have tipped over if she and other women hadn’t stepped 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,” he said.
De León also compared Bonin’s handling of his son at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day 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.
At another point in the leaked conversation, Martinez recalls a conversation with businessman Danny Bakewell about possibly transferring Los Angeles International Airport out of Bonin’s council district into Harris-Dawson’s.
Martinez said she told Bakewell to “go get the airport from his little brother — that little bitch Bonin.”
On the subject of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ suspension following an indictment on federal corruption charges, Martinez said Controller Ron Galperin would decide whether Ridley-Thomas still gets paid.
“You need to go talk to that white guy,” she says. “It’s not us. It’s the white members on this council that will motherf— you in a heartbeat.”
Martinez also took aim at Los Angeles County District George Gascón in profane terms, after the group appeared to discuss whether Gascón would endorse Cedillo in his re-election campaign against Hernandez.
“F— that guy. (inaudible) … He’s with the Blacks,” she said of Gascón.
Martinez, de León, Herrera and Cedillo apologized separately on Sunday for their roles in the conversation.
“In a moment of intense frustration and anger, I let the situation get the best of me and I hold myself accountable for these comments. For that I am sorry,” Martinez said in a statement provided to City News Service on Sunday.
“The context of this conversation was concern over the redistricting process and concern about the potential negative impact it might have on communities of color. My work speaks for itself. I’ve worked hard to lead this city through its most difficult time.”
De Leó n said: “There were comments made in the context of this meeting that are wholly inappropriate, and I regret appearing to condone and even contribute to certain insensitive comments made about a colleague and his family in private. I’ve reached out to that colleague personally,” he said.
“On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders — and I will hold myself to a higher standard.”
Herrera’s statement said: “The calls for accountability are loud clear and deserved. I recognize that the community and our affiliates deserved an apology earlier and I am sorry this has not been the case. I had to face my family and granddaughters personally and apologize to them for my failure to stand up to racist and anti-Black remarks in that immediate moment. I failed them in the moment and for that I hold the deepest regret.
“And now, I apologize to all of you, Mike Bonin and his family, the affiliates and community members, specifically those in the Black and Oaxacan community. There is no justification and no excuse for the vile remarks made in that room. Period. And I didn’t step up to stop them and I will have to bear the burden of that cross moving forward,” Herrera said. “I will do better and I hope that all of you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.”
Cedillo issued a statement saying, “I want to start by apologizing. While I did not engage in the conversation in question, I was present at times during this meeting last year. It is my instinct to hold others accountable when they use derogatory or racially divisive language. Clearly, I should have intervened. I failed in holding others and myself to the highest standard. The hurtful and harmful remarks made about my colleague’s son were simply unacceptable. We choose public life, but our families should always be off limits and never part of the political discourse.”
Bonin gave an emotional speech during Tuesday’s council meeting, saying he can’t forgive any of the council members involved in the conversation until they all resign from the council.
On Wednesday, state Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that his office is conducting an investigation into the city’s redistricting process in light of the recorded conversation. He noted that the racist remarks were all centered around the topic of redrawing council district boundaries to the benefit of the incumbent involved in the recording.
City Attorney Mike Feuer calling for an expedited special election to establish an independent redistricting commission, followed by an immediate review of current district boundaries.