The Los Angeles City Council enters the weekend in a state of unprecedented uncertainty, with fallout from the City Hall racism scandal continuing.
Two council members — Kevin de LeÃ³n and Gil Cedillo — are facing calls to resign by nearly all of their colleagues, the council is functioning under an acting president after Nury Martinez resigned and the next two meetings will be conducted remotely after a COVID-19 exposure. Multiple protests this week in the Council Chamber led to Friday’s meeting being canceled.
“The situation is fluid right now,” Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson told City News Service on Friday. “We’re in a period where we’re in a holding pattern, waiting for these resignations.”
Acting Council President Mitch O’Farrell said Thursday the “people’s business cannot be conducted” until de LeÃ³n and Cedillo resign, but Dan Halden, O’Farrell’s communications director, said Friday that “we do have to conduct business” after planning the virtual meetings next week. Councilman Mike Bonin tested positive for COVID-19 this week and was present at Tuesday’s meeting.
“With the possibility that there will be more positive cases, out of an abundance of caution we will hold both Tuesday and Wednesday’s meetings virtually, as we did for over a year during the height of the pandemic,” O’Farrell said in a statement.
De LeÃ³n and Cedillo were included in a recorded October 2021 conversation in which racist statements were made as the four officials discussed the city’s redistricting process. Martinez, the former council president, and Ron Herrera, who was president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, have both resigned following the release of the recording.
O’Farrell has been in touch with Cedillo but has not been able to reach de LeÃ³n since Tuesday, according to Halden.
It is unclear what will happen if de LeÃ³n and Cedillo do not resign by Tuesday. At least two council members — Harris-Dawson and Bonin — and Councilwoman-elect Eunisses Hernandez said the council should not meet on Friday without resignations from de LeÃ³n and Cedillo.
Harris-Dawson expects to meet Tuesday “because they will have already resigned,” he told CNS, though Harris-Dawson did not have any knowledge of the two embattled members’ thinking.
Protests were expected again in the Council Chamber again Tuesday if de LeÃ³n and Cedillo did not resign by then and the council met in-person.
When asked by City News Service if the potential for another disruption factored into the decision to hold the meetings virtually, Halden said the move was “about the COVID-19 diagnosis.”
Halden later said it was important for the council to move forward and have a meeting. Halden added that the pain and anger Angelenos feel from the release of the recording “comes from a real place,” but “at the same time, we do have to conduct business.”
De LeÃ³n and Cedillo, who attempted to attend Tuesday’s meeting but were asked to leave after protesters voiced objections to their presence, would be able to attend the virtual meetings without facing the public face-to-face. Their attendance would “not be appropriate, no matter the format in which we are meeting,” Halden said.
Harris-Dawson sought a bit of empathy for de LeÃ³n and Cedillo, noting the intense media focus on the scandal and the potential that they might feel like they’ve been misunderstood.
“They all, particularly Gil Cedllo, they have a body of work that sort of gets overlooked in the heat of this particular moment,” Harris-Dawson said. “So, I just think it takes a moment emotionally and logistically to get to the place where you can step up and do the right thing.”
Harris-Dawson, who is Black, was mentioned in the leaked recording. He said he hasn’t spoken to either councilman.
“You always know that there’s anti-Black racism all around you,” Harris-Dawson said. “You don’t realize that there’s anti-Black sentiment sitting right next to you. So I think it’s going to be a while before we get to the stage where there can be regular interaction.”
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, told CNS before the announcement that Tuesday and Wednesday’s meetings would be virtual that the council “can’t have an actual, calm meeting unless these two resign.”
“The feelings are too raw in the city,” Chu said, “So people are angry, people are outraged, people are feeling that anger right in the soul of their bodies, and so that’s why I think they cannot have a LA City Council meeting until these two resign. Then we can start the process of healing.”
Despite no meeting on Friday, a couple dozen protesters showed up at City Hall to demand de LeÃ³n and Cedillo’s resignations, blocking off Main Street until around 11 a.m.
George Hurod, one of the protesters, was at City Hall this week during the disrupted meetings. Hurod, a member of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, told CNS he had planned to return to the chamber on Tuesday to shut down the meeting again, echoing several others who have attended the meetings since the scandal broke.
“Of course,” Hurod said. “Until they’re out, I’ll be here.”
The council is set to take up several major items Tuesday, including electing a new council president, considering placing a measure on the 2024 ballot to create an independent redistricting commission for the city and a motion to explore expanding the number of council seats.
A group of protesters showed up outside de LeÃ³n’s home Saturday morning dressed as sanitation workers, making noise with a bullhorn and leaf blower.
“NOTICE OF MAJOR CLEANING: Kevin De Leon is getting a wake up call this morning since he still hasn’t decided to resign,” the left-wing group People’s City Council – Los Angeles tweeted. “Looks like LA SAN and crew are here to give him the same treatment that our Unhoused neighbors get in his district everyday.”
De LeÃ³n, 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 but was defeated by Hernandez in the June primary.
O’Farrell added: “One thing is clear: They need to put all of that past them and resign right now.”
Under intense pressure, Martinez — who was the most vocal on the released recording — on Monday resigned as council president, took a leave of absence on Tuesday, then resigned her seat altogether on Wednesday.
Bonin — whose young son was targeted by some of Martinez’s racial slurs — again called for de LeÃ³n and Cedillo to resign on Saturday, tweeting: “It’s been 6 days since we learned of the ugly, racist things Martinez, Herrera, De Leon and Cedillo said. De Leon’s and Cedillo’s refusal to resign is another deep wound they’re inflicting on us all. Let Los Angeles heal. Resign today.”