Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez resigned from her council seat Oct. 12 after the recent leak of a recorded conversation from a year ago made her the center of a political firestorm that’s sweeping through the second-largest city in the United States.
“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 lengthy statement on Oct. 12, two days after she gave up her council presidency.
After thanking and apologizing to city staff, colleagues, and constituents, Martinez said: “While I take the time to look inwards and reflect, I ask that you give me space and privacy.”
Besides Martinez, Councilmen Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera could be heard in the taped conversation with racially disparaging remarks about a fellow councilor and other ethnic groups. The recording surfaced on Reddit Oct. 9 but was removed shortly after. Herrera resigned from his position the following day.
Public pressure has been mounting after the leak, with President Joe Biden joining a group of California politicians—including Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA mayoral candidates Karen Bass and Rick Caruso, and several city councilors—in condemning the officials involved.
Angry protesters also disrupted the city council meetings on Oct. 11 and the following day, calling for all three councilors to resign.
At least two council members—Paul Krekorian and Marqueece Harris-Dawson—signaled an intent to hold a special election for Martinez’s seat as well as de León’s seat if he resigns. Both of their terms expire in December 2024. Cedillo lost his re-election bid to Eunessis Hernandez earlier this year, and Krekorian suggested swearing in Hernandez immediately if Cedillo resigns.
In a statement moments after Martinez’s announcement, acting Council President Mitch O’Farrell said her resignation is the “first, necessary step in the process” of accountability.
Mayor Eric Garcetti also said Martinez “made the right decision, one that [he] realize is painful to her personally but unquestionably in the best interests of a city that [he] know she loves.”
“Racism and hateful words cannot ever be overlooked by our community or within one’s self, and she needs the time and space to reflect, make amends and move forward with her life,” he said in a statement. “Her two former colleagues must arrive at the same decision soon, because Angelenos deserve a government focused squarely on meeting challenges in their neighborhoods that are too serious to risk a paralyzed City Council.”
Both mayoral candidates supported the resignation.
“Ms. Martinez did the right thing,” Rep. Karen Bass said. “For Los Angeles to move in the right direction, Mr. De León and Mr. Cedillo must resign as well.”
Developer Rick Caruso, Bass’s opponent, said Martinez “made the right choice. We need to move forward as a city and heal.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom called the resignation “the right move.”
“Again, these comments have no place in our state, or in our politics, and we must all model better behavior to live the values that so many of us fight every day to protect,” he said in a statement.
In the taped conversation, Martinez spoke about Bonin’s black son as “ese changuito”—Spanish for “that little monkey”—while recalling seeing the boy misbehaving on a float during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. She said if she and another woman didn’t step in to “parent his kid” the float may have tumbled over.
“They’re raising him like a little white kid,” she said in the recording. “I was like, ‘this kid needs a beatdown,’ let me take him around the corner, and then I’ll bring him back.”
De León chimed in and said Bonin treats his child the same way as “when Nury brings her Goyard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag.”
While referencing Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, Martinez said “[Expletive] that guy, he’s with the blacks.” The conversation, which the officials did not know was being recorded, also included Martinez making disparaging comments about Oaxacans, an indigenous group from Mexico.
Herrera, Cedillo, and de León issued statements of apology after the leak Oct. 9.
“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,” de León 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 said “[t]here is no justification and no excuse for the vile remarks made in that room. Period.”
“I apologize to all of you, Mike Bonin and his family, the affiliates and community members, specifically those in the Black and Oaxacan community,” Herrera said.
Cedillo said it is his “instinct to hold others accountable when they use derogatory or racially divisive language.”
“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. … Clearly, I should have intervened,” Cedillo said.
Currently, it is unclear who recorded the conversation, which reportedly took place at a Federation of Labor office, and who posted it on Reddit.
The federation referred to the recording as “illegal” and is investigating the source of the leak, which was “a serious security and privacy breach” at its offices, according to an email sent to some of its affiliates and first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Since 2013, Martinez served on the LA City Council and represented the 6th District in the San Fernando Valley. Six years later, she became the first Latina to become president of the council, replacing long-time President Herb Wesson.
City News Service contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times