Acting Los Angeles City Council President Mitch O’Farrell said Monday he will remove Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo from their committee assignments, though he had no update on whether the two embattled council members will resign their seats over their involvement in a racism scandal surrounding the city’s redistricting process.

De León and Cedillo were involved in a 2021 recorded conversation that included racist comments that led to Nury Martinez resigning from her council seat last week. De León and Cedillo have been under mounting pressure to resign since the release of the tape more than a week ago.

De León chairs the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, and Cedillo chairs the Housing Committee. Council rules require each council member to be appointed to at least one committee, so O’Farrell said he was working out the details of removing the pair from their assignments.

O’Farrell said Cedillo will not be attending Tuesday’s council meeting, which will take place remotely. He has urged de León not to attend, but has not been able to get in touch with him.

“What I have to do is make sure that this council is not held hostage because two additional members refuse to resign,” O’Farrell said at a news briefing Monday at City Hall.

When asked to confirm if Cedillo would not be attending Tuesday’s meeting, a representative did not respond directly Monday afternoon, saying only that the councilman was “at a place of reflection.” A representative for de León did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The South Central LA Tenants community group sent a letter to council members Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Heather Hutt and Curren Price on Monday asking them to not attend any council or committee meetings until de León and Cedillo resign. If all three abide by such a request, it could threaten the already short-handed council from having a quorum, meaning it would be unable to meet.

One source described the situation on Monday afternoon as “fluid.”

Black Lives Matter protesters began staging a camp-out Sunday morning in front of de León’s home in Eagle Rock, pledging to remain until he steps down for his role in the leaked conversation that has already prompted the resignations of former council president Martinez and former L.A. County Federation of Labor president Ron Herrera.

Protests caused the City Council to cancel last Friday’s scheduled meeting, and nearly all council members have called on de León and Cedillo to resign.

This week’s meetings will be conducted remotely, with O’Farrell citing COVID-19 exposures for the move. Councilman Mike Bonin — whose young Black son was the target of some of Martinez’s most offensive slurs — tested positive last week after delivering a tearful 12-minute speech in the council chamber at Tuesday’s meeting. Councilman Paul Krekorian also tested positive for COVID-19, a representative confirmed to City News Service on Monday.

“If my colleagues are well enough to log on, and I’m hopeful that they will be, we can carry on via Zoom tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday,” O’Farrell said.

Activists have blasted O’Farrell for calling virtual meetings, saying he was using COVID-19 protocols as an excuse to avoid disruptive public demonstrations at the council sessions.

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. Krekorian — who, along with Councilman Curren Price, told the Los Angeles Times he is interested in seeking the council presidency — will still attend Tuesday’s meeting, according to a spokesperson.

The ongoing chaos has also exposed the ongoing political power struggle between Los Angeles’ Black and Latino communities. A group of Black civil rights leaders held a news conference Sunday and demanded that Martinez be replaced by one of the council’s Black members to “demonstrate its commitment to Black political empowerment and political and racial healing.”

“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.”

O’Farrell said Thursday the “people’s business cannot be conducted” until de León and Cedillo resign, but Dan Halden, O’Farrell’s communications director, said Friday that “we do have to conduct business.”

Along with Martinez and Herrera, de León and Cedillo were included in the recorded October 2021 conversation in which racist statements were made as the four officials discussed the city’s redistricting process. Martinez, who made most of the offensive remarks, resigned last Monday as council president, took a leave of absence last Tuesday, then resigned her seat altogether one day later under intense pressure.

It is unclear what will happen if de León 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 without resignations from de León 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.

When asked by CNS 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.”

Bonin tweeted Saturday that his most recent COVID test, taken Saturday morning, was negative.

De León and Cedillo, who attempted to attend last 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.

A member of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles tweeted photos Sunday morning showing that protesters had set up tents in de Leon’s Eagle Rock neighborhood.

On Saturday, protesters showed up outside de León’s home 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 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.”

The group later tracked de León to a home in Glendale, where he is reportedly staying with a friend, and posted another “MAJOR CLEANING” notice.

Later Saturday, hundreds of members of local Indigenous communities marched in downtown Los Angeles, demanding the resignations of de León and Cedillo. Some of the demonstrators wore traditional Oaxacan outfits.

Martinez can be heard on the leaked recording calling Oaxacans “little short dark people.”

“I don’t know what village they came (from), how they got here, but boy they’re ugly,” the former council president says at one point.

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 but was defeated by Hernandez in the June primary.

Harris-Dawson sought a bit of empathy for the pair, noting the intense media focus on the scandal and the potential that they might feel like they’ve been misunderstood.

“They all, particularly Gil Cedillo, 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.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *