By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – The California Department of Justice will launch an investigation into Los Angeles’ redistricting process as three city councilmembers face mounting calls to resign from office after a leaked audio recording revealed their use of racist comments during a conversation about maintaining political power through redistricting.
Attorney General Rob Bonta condemned the racist remarks made by Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo but stopped short of calling for resignations on Wednesday. Mr. Bonta called the redistricting process “foundational for our democracy,” adding that his office is going to examine the facts and take action to “ensure the fair application of our laws.”
“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,” Mr. Bonta told reporters Wednesday. “There’s 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 public official.”
“It is clear an investigation is sorely needed to help restore confidence in the redistricting process for the people of LA,” Mr. Bonta later added.
Mr. Bonta clarified that he is not planning an “overhaul” through the investigation but noted there is the potential for civil liability or criminal charges depending on what they discover.
The attorney general’s remarks came hours before Ms. Martinez announced her resignation from the council Wednesday afternoon. As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, neither Mr. Cedillo nor Mr. de León had resigned.
Ms. Martinez has previously stepped down as city council president on Monday and announced she would be taking a “leave of absence” on Tuesday. Ron Herrera, the president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor who was also involved in the conversation, resigned Monday.
Los Angeles City Council members attempted to conduct their usual meeting on Wednesday, but were faced by a large crowd of protesters demanding the resignations of Ms. Martinez, Mr. de León and Mr. Cedillo. The crowd chanted and repeatedly shouted “no resignation, no meeting,” and eventually the council made the decision to adjourn until Friday.
The leaked conversation featured the three council members and Mr. Herrera voicing frustrations about the redistricting maps proposed by the city’s commission while inserting racist comments about another councilmember’s Black son and Oaxacans in Koreatown, as well as offensive remarks about Jews and Armenians. The four participants in the conversation have issued apologies.
The leaked audio, first reported and shared by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, provoked rage from Los Angeles residents and elected officials across the state. Many are calling for the three councilmembers to resign from office, including U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, fellow Los Angeles city councilmembers, and even President Joe Biden.
The recording of the conversation was initially posted on Reddit by a user who has since been suspended. It remains unclear who recorded the audio, but the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor has confirmed it was recorded at their offices. They told the Los Angeles Times that the recording was illegal and that they plan to “make sure these crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”