State attorney general will probe LA redistricting in midst of City Council scandal

Los Angeles City Hall is reflected in the windows of LAPD Headquarters on Monday, October 10, 2022. On Monday Nury Martinez resigned her city council presidency after being recorded making racist comments. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

As protesters again disrupted the start of Wednesday’s Los Angeles City Council meeting, State Attorney General Rob Bonta confirmed that his office will investigate the city’s redistricting process in light of the racially charged, recorded 2021 conversation that included three council members discussing the redrawing of district boundaries.

“The remarks that were made by some of Los Angeles’ highest ranking officials, they were unacceptable, they were offensive and they were deeply painful, deeply hurtful to many communities,” Bonta said. “There is no place for anti-Black, anti-Semitic, anti-Indigenous, homophobic or discriminatory rhetoric of any kind in our state, especially when it comes in relation to the duties of a public official.”

Bonta added: “The redistricting process is foundational for our Democracy and for the ability of our communities to make their voices heard. And it must be above reproach. Given these unique circumstances, my office is going to investigate. We’re going to gather the facts. We’re going to work to determine the truth and take action as necessary to ensure the fair application of our laws.”

Los Angeles Council member Nury Martinez addresses the council Tuesday December 3, 2019. Martinez (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

The investigation is the latest fallout from the recording that was leaked over the weekend and led to former Council President Nury Martinez stepping down as council president and prompted widespread calls for her to resign, along with fellow meeting participants councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo.

The conversation featured Martinez making an array of racially charged comments aimed at various ethnic groups, as well as the 2-year-old Black adopted son of Councilman Mike Bonin. The remarks were made during a meeting with Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera to discuss the redistricting process.

Herrera has since resigned as the federation president. Martinez has taken a leave of absence from the council, but she and the other two council members have thus far declined to resign their seats.

Bonin said the conversation makes it imperative for a detailed examination of the city’s redistricting process.

Amid demands for three  City Council members to resign – including a statement from President Joe Biden – and calls for a state probe into the city’s redistricting process, and pitches for an independent redistricting commission, the City Council on Tuesday faced a public that was railing against City Hall corruption.

With protesters continuing to disrupt the proceedings, interim Los Angeles City Council President Mitch O’Farrell adjourned Wednesday’s meeting amid the hubbub. He said he would try to restart the meeting later in hopes the demonstrations would ease.

Councilmembers introduced several agenda items to address the fallout, including a resolution to censure councilmembers  Martinez,  de Leon and  Cedillo and a resolution, which seven councilmembers signed, calling for their immediate resignations from office. Martinez resigned her post as president but not her council seat.

Martinez, De Leon and Cedillo are under increasing pressure to step down after a secret recording emerged on social media of a private conversation a year ago between the three councilmembers and powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera in which the four discussed how to influence the city’s upcoming redrawing of voting districts.

In the secret recording, Martinez and De Leon can be heard making racist comments about City Councilmember Mike Bonin’s toddler, who is Black — among other racially tainted comments.

The four Latino leaders also discussed how best to redraw the city’s redistricting maps to benefit them – actions that had the potential to weaken Black political representation in Los Angeles.

The controversial audio that set the scandal in motion  included revealing discussions around last year’s process of redrawing council district boundaries.

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Martinez said said in a statement that she made the remarks out of “intense frustration and anger” and the context of the October 2021 conversation was “concern over the redistricting process and concern about the potential negative impact it might have on communities of color.”

She and her two council peers expressed frustration with proposed maps from the city’s 21- member redistricting commission, as the three council members discussed how they could create favorable districts for themselves while handing other colleagues unfavorable districts. Council districts are redrawn once every 10 years, and the council was discussing its options at the time.

City News Service contributed to this report



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