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LA City Councilmember Nury Martinez resigns from office, two days after stepping down from leadership post

<i>Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images</i><br/>Los Angeles City Council Acting President Mitch O'Farrell stressed the need for better representation on the council.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag
Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
Los Angeles City Council Acting President Mitch O'Farrell stressed the need for better representation on the council.

By Cheri Mossburg, Taylor Romine and Holly Yan, CNN

Los Angeles City Council member Nury Martinez resigned from her seat on Council District 6, two days after stepping down from her post as president for making racist remarks.

“To my constituents – Serving you has been a privilege and one that I don’t give up lightly. You are my neighbors, my friends, and the reason for this service,” Martinez said, in part, in a Wednesday news release. “I hope you stay engaged and continue to fight for your fair share of the city’s resources. It’s hard to say goodbye, but please know that I was in this fight for you.”

“While I take the time to look inwards and reflect, I ask that you give me space and privacy,” the news release ended.

CNN has reached out to Martinez’s office to inquire if her resignation is effective immediately.

Her resignation comes days after audio posted online revealed she made racist comments about another council member’s family and said that colleague’s son “needs a beatdown.”

The remarks were part of leaked audio that was posted anonymously on Reddit and obtained by the Los Angeles Times. According to the newspaper, the audio details a conversation between Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, who resigned from his post Monday.

Martinez publicly apologized for her comments Monday and resigned from her post as council president. On Tuesday, she also took a leave of absence from the council.

Acting Council President Mitch O’Farrell called Martinez’s resignation on Wednesday “the first, necessary step” toward accountability and called on de León and Cedillo to also resign.

“There is no other way forward,” O’Farrell said in a statement.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the resignation the “right decision,” adding that “racism and hateful words cannot ever be overlooked.” The mayor also called for the two other council members to make the same decision.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also called the resignation the “right move,” saying her 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.”

O’Farrell designated Sharon Tso, the city’s chief legislative analyst (CLA), as caretaker for Martinez’s district, effective immediately.

O’Farrell said in a statement he will look into a special election to fill Martinez’s seat. “Caretaker” is a non-voting role designed to “ensure that the office continues to operate and that matters important to constituents are handled,” he said.

New proposals from acting president

A day earlier, O’Farrell had proposed several changes to help move the city forward during a loud and contentious council meeting — the first meeting since the scandal broke.

He proposed “major reform of the city charter, city council and how we approach redistricting, representation — the topics at the center of this crisis” and called for expanding the council and an independent redistricting commission to map out representation of the “diverse metropolis.”

O’Farrell presented a motion for a ballot measure that could be posed to voters to decide if the council should grow.

The number of members — 15 — has not changed since 1925, when Los Angeles had less than 1 million residents, O’Farrell said.

The city’s population has since quadrupled, according to US Census data.

“This council should reflect and represent the residents we serve,” O’Farrell said. “A ballot measure that increases the number of council seats to help us meet that goal and involve Angelenos in the process, as will an immediate redistricting process, should the people decide they want an expanded city council.”

California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Wednesday announced an investigation into the city’s redistricting process.

Calling it “foundational to our democracy,” Bonta insisted the process “must be above reproach.”

Bonta said the investigation “could lead to criminality,” and “there’s certainly the potential for civil liability based on civil rights and voting rights laws here in the state of California.”

When the council reconvenes, members will discuss another ballot measure that calls for an independent redistricting commission that would determine the boundaries set every 10 years.

A city council meeting that was originally scheduled for Wednesday was delayed until Friday, O’Farrell announced. The meeting was moved after the council lost a quorum — a required 10 of 15 members — due to protesters who interrupted and chanted, “No resignation, no meeting” and, “Stand down or we shut down.”

‘He’s like a monkey’

According to The Los Angeles Times, the leaked audio captured conversation from October 2021 involving Martinez, Cedillo, de León and Herrera.

Much of the conversation focused on maps proposed by the city’s redistricting commission and the councilmembers’ frustration with them, as well as the need to “ensure that heavily Latino districts did not lose economic assets” in the once-in-a-decade process, according to the Times.

The councilmembers then discussed Councilmember Mike Bonin, a White man. In clips of the leaked audio posted by the Times, Martinez is heard recounting a conversation and says “Bonin thinks he’s f**king Black.”

According to the Times, Martinez says Bonin appeared with his son on a float in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade and he “handled his young Black son as though he were an accessory.” The boy is 8 years old, according to a Facebook post by his father.

The Times reported that Martinez also said of Bonin’s child, “Parece changuito,” or “He’s like a monkey.”

In the leaked audio, Martinez can be heard talking about Bonin’s son allegedly misbehaving while at the parade by hanging from a railing of their float, saying “this kid is going to tip us over.”

“They’re raising him like a little White kid,” Martinez said in the audio released by The Times. “I was like, this kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I’ll bring him back.”

CNN has not been able to verify the audio recording. But the fallout has been swift.

Calls for more resignations intensify

Councilmember Cedillo issued a public statement saying he should have stepped in during the conversation.

“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,” Cedillo said Sunday. “It is my instinct to hold others accountable when they use derogatory or racially divisive language. Clearly, I should have intervened.”

Councilmember de León also said he should have acted differently.

“On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders — and I will hold myself to a higher standard,” he said in a written statement Sunday.

“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.”

Officials near and far — including Sen. Dianne Feinstein and President Joe Biden — believe the councilmembers who took part in the recorded conversation should resign.

“At a time when our country has seen a steep rise in racially motivated hate crimes, it’s critical that elected officials set a positive example on behalf of everyone they represent,” said Feinstein, the senior US senator from California.

A motion to elect a new council president will be heard next Tuesday.

The-CNN-Wire
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CNN’s Paul Vercammen, Camila Bernal, Sarah Moon, Stella Chan and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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