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LA City Council Controversy: Everything we know

LA City Council meetings amid turmoil
LA City Council meets amid turmoil 02:52

The Los Angeles City Council was rocked by scandal when leaked audio of several council members involved in a racially-charged conversation was released to the public. 

The audio, first released on Reddit, comes from Oct. 2021, when council President Nury Martinez, Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo and LA County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera were heard hurling a number of racially insensitive comments around. The Los Angeles Times broke the story on Sunday, prompting immense fallout in recent days.

Martinez allegedly referred to fellow council member Mike Bonin's son, who is Black, as "parece changuito," or "that little monkey" when translated from Spanish to English. The participants also mention the child again when referring to a parade around 2017, commenting on his behavior at the time, when he was under 3-years-old. 

"They're raising him like a little white kid. I was like, this kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I'll bring him back," Martinez can be heard saying, also referring to Bonin as a "little b----."

Councilman De León is also heard likening the Bonin's parenting of the boy to "when Nury brings her little yard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag."

During the discussion, the involved parties also discussed the ongoing legal situation regarding former Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was recently indicted on federal charges of corruption. They also had a lengthy conversation about the council's redistricting process, which has since been scrutinized, even eliciting an investigation from California Attorney General Rob Bonta. 

That conversation specifically refers to the redistricting of Koreatown, when Martinez said, "I see a lot of little short dark people," while talking about residents living in the area. "I was like, I don't know where these people are from, I don't know what village they came, how they got here." She also refers to them as "tan feos" or "they're ugly," in English.

She also refers to Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón at one point, saying "F--- that guy, he's with the Blacks." 


In the wake of the audio leak, protestors gathered outside of Martinez's home, calling for her resignation from the city council. Eventually, Los Angeles Police Department officers were called to disperse the growing crowd. 

Martinez and De León both offered apologies in statements released to the public on Sunday after the story was first leaked, with Martinez indicating that the conversation happened during a "moment of intense frustration and anger," while De León offered regret for "appearing to condone and even contribute to certain insensitive comments made."

The following day, Martinez announced that she would be stepping down as City Council President in this statement:

"I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments. I'm so sorry.

I sincerely apologize to the people I hurt with my words: to my colleagues, their families, especially to Mike, Sean, and your son. As a mother, I know better and I am sorry. I am truly ashamed. I know this is the result of my own actions. I'm sorry to your entire family for putting you through this.

As someone who believes deeply in the empowerment of communities of color, I recognize my comments undercut that goal. Going forward, reconciliation will be my priority. I have already reached out to many of my Black colleagues and other Black leaders to express my regret in order for us to heal.

I ask for forgiveness from my colleagues and from the residents of this city that I love so much. In the end, it is not my apologies that matter most; it will be the actions I take from this day forward. I hope that you will give me the opportunity to make amends.

Therefore, effective immediately I am resigning as President of the Los Angeles City Council."

LA County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera announced his resignation late Monday evening. 

Prior to Tuesday's City Council meeting, the first since the audio leaked, Martinez announced a leave of absence from the council during what she called, "one of the most difficult times of my life and I recognize this is entirely of my own making."

Hundreds of protestors converged inside and outside of the City Hall chambers, angrily calling for the resignation of all parties involved. Ahead of the meeting's start, Councilman Mike Bonin took the time to address the outraged crowd with an impassioned speech addressing the scandal, especially in regard to his family. 

"These people stabbed us and shot us and cut the spirit of Los Angeles. It gave the beatdown to the heart and the soul of the city. But before anything else in the world, I'm a dad who loves his son in ways that words cannot capture. And I take a lot of hits, and I practically invite a bunch of them. But my son? Man, that makes my soul bleed and it makes by temper burn," he said, demanding resignation as the first step toward healing.

Los Angeles City Council meets for the first time since Nury Martinez resigned as its president.
Councilman Mike Bonin addresses the general public at a city council meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in Los Angeles. Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Following Bonin's statement, Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, currently presiding over the presidency as pro tempore, was forced to call for a lengthy recess after he could not regain order due to yells and protests in the chamber. Both Cedillo and De León were in attendance at the meeting, but left after the break. 

Council members later called for the censure of their colleagues involved, as long as they withheld their seats.  

Cedillo is already due to step down from his seat in two month's time, after losing to Eunisses Hernandez in the July race for the Distric 1 seat. 

Part of the audio leak revealed a conversation he and the others had regarding whether Hernandez would be a threat in the Primary Election. None of the involved seem to give her a second thought. 

"The whole hour was really hard to hear," Hernandez said on Thursday. "These are people that we've looked up to, that I've looked up to some of them growing up. To hear them talking about Mike Bonin's family, his son, was for me, one of the worst pieces of it."

Several local and national politicians have called for immediate resignation from Martinez, De León, Cedillo and Herrera, including President Biden, Governor Newsom, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Mayoral candidates Rep. Karen Bass and Rick Caruso.

In the hours following the leaked audio, numerous activists and local community leaders staged protests to express their outrage and ensure that the Black and Latino communities - both targeted in the phone call - would not experience any divide after decades of work towards unity. 

Early Wednesday, Martinez officially offered her resignation from City Council, issuing a lengthy written statement. 

"It is with a broken heart that I resign my seat for Council District 6, the community I grew up in and my home," she said. 

Protests have continued in recent days, causing City Council members to announce a remote meeting session on Friday, as the last two meetings have been disrupted by demonstrations. 

It remains unclear who recorded the audio and leaked the recording. The Federation of Labor is investigating the source of the conversation, which reportedly occurred inside of a federation office.

On Thursday, Councilman O'Farrell announced that Friday's scheduled council meeting was canceled due to De León and Cedillo's refusal to resign to this point. 

"The people's business cannot be conducted until we have these two resignations," O'Farrell said.

He also designated the City's Chief Legislative Analyst (CLA) as the Caretaker for the Sixth Council District, formerly represented by Martinez. 

Mayor Garcetti appeared on camera for the first time since the scandal broke, addressing the topic during a conversation with CNN. 

"A heartbreaking week in Los Angeles. I think the simple truth is that we all feel broken," he said. "Unfortunately these words were an Equal Opportunity discriminator, it was like a full Yahtzee card of insults."

After nearly a week since the audio was leaked, protestors continued to call for resignation gathering outside of Councilman De León's home Saturday morning. 

Councilman Bonin issued his thoughts on the prolonged delay behind De León and Cedillo's resignation, tweeting: 

"It's been 6 days since we learned of the ugly, racist things Martinez, Herrera, De León and Cedillo said. De León's and Cedillo's refusal to resign is another deep wound they're inflicting on us all. Let Los Angeles heal. Resign today."

On Monday, acting president Mitch O'Farrell announced that Cedillo and De León were both being removed from LA City Council committees, despite their longstanding refusal to resign. Cedillo is a chairman for the Housing Committee, while De León chairs the Homelessness and Poverty Committee.

"What I have to do is make sure that this council is not held hostage because two additional members refuse to resign," he said at a press conference. He's asked both men not to attend Tuesday's council meeting, which will be held virtually due to a COVID exposure. "I do not see the remaining two members, who haven't resigned, coming back to council with any level of credibility whatsoever."

Councilmembers voted for a new president on Tuesday, unanimously selecting Paul Krekorian to replace Martinez. They also voted on a measure to add the creation of an independent redistricting commission for both Los Angeles Unified School District and the city of LA, as well as increasing the number of districts in the city.

"The presidency will be a collective enterprise," Krekorian said. "It is critically important to me that our leadership includes disagreement. Because that's how we move forward as a community. By listening to each other and working together."

Outside of LA City Hall, protestors clashed with LAPD officers attempting to keep them from entering the building, despite the fact that the meeting was being held virtually. 

"No resignations, no meeting," they chanted. 

During an interview with Tom Wait on CBS2, de León did not announce plans to resign from City Council, but rather to repairing relationships that have been damaged in recent weeks. 

"I failed in my leadership," he said. "I didn't step up and intervene. I didn't put a stop to it."

Bonin spoke with CBS on Thursday, nearly 24 hours after the interview first aired, noting that he was "disappointed and sort of disgusted by Kevin's comments."

City Council met again on Friday, Oct. 21, despite demonstrators gathered around City Hall in Downtown LA. While there, they voted Councilman Curren Price as president pro tempore. Neither Cedillo nor De León were in attendance. 

During their first in person meeting since temporarily convening online due to a number of COVID-related concerns, councilmembers were again disrupted by demonstrators inside of City Hall. However, the meeting was able to continue, with members unanimously voting to hold a special election in order to find a replacement for Martinez's former District 6 seat. 

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, after their scheduled meeting was disrupted on several occasions by loud and enraged protestors, causing a dispersal order from LAPD officers on hand, councilmembers unanimously voted to censure Cedillo, de León and former President Nury Martinez. It is the first time they have censured other members since rules changed in 2000.

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