In the leaked recording, Nuri Martinez made racist comments about the black son of a white council member, among other crude remarks.
LOS ANGELES — The former president of the Los Angeles City Council resigned Wednesday, three days after a tape of her racist remarks surfaced at a meeting that is now the subject of a government investigation.
Nouri Martinez, the first Latina woman to hold the council’s top post, announced her decision in a news release after a wave of outrage and calls for her and two other council members to resign in a taped conversation last year.
Martinez made racist remarks about the black son of a white council member and other rude comments.
Her resignation statement did not address the comments, although in a statement addressed to her daughter she said she had not lived up to expectations recently, adding: “I promise you that I will strive to be the best woman you can be and make you proud.”
The announcement came hours after Attorney General Rob Bonto said he would investigate a Los Angeles redistricting process three council members discussed with a labor leader in which they planned to protect Latino political power in council districts.
Martinez stepped down as president Monday while still holding a seat on the board. Her decision to give up her seat came as President Joe Biden was scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles a day after he condemned the remarks and called on all three council members — Martinez, Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo — to resign.
Bonta, a Democrat, like the three council members, said his investigation could lead to civil or criminal charges, depending on what is found.
“Clearly, an investigation is desperately needed to restore the confidence of the people of Los Angeles in the redistricting process,” he said.
Bonto was speaking in Los Angeles as the council tried unsuccessfully to conduct business nearby amid an uproar that exposed City Hall’s racial rivalry. All of the participants in the ensuing conversation were Latino, and Bonta is the first Filipino-American to hold the top law enforcement post in the nation’s most populous state.
The council reconvened on Wednesday, possibly to convict the three members, but was unable to act because a crowd of about 50 protesters drowned out the incumbent president, chanting slogans such as: “No meeting without resignation.”
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At least 10 of the 15 members required for a quorum were present, but the meeting was adjourned when one walked out. None of the three combative members of the council showed up.
“Who locked you up? We locked you up!” shouted the noisy crowd as the lights went out.
Acting Council President Mitch O’Farrell said with no signs of anger abating, he didn’t think the council could resume work until all three were gone, which he said was inevitable.
“For Los Angeles to heal and for its City Council to lead, there must be accountability,” he said in a statement. – I repeat my call to Council members de Leon and Cedillo to resign as well. There is no other way forward.”
The council cannot expel members — it can only suspend a member if criminal charges are pending against him. Conviction does not result in suspension or removal from office.
In the recorded conversation, Martinez called Councilman Mike Bonin a “little bitch.” She described his black son’s behavior at a parade when he was 2 as “parece changuito” or “like a monkey,” the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
Elsewhere in the hour-long recording, Martinez called indigenous immigrants from the Mexican state of Oaxaca ugly and made rude remarks about Jews and Armenians.
Martinez made history in 2019 when she became the first Latina elected as council president, describing herself as a “glass-ceiling-shattering leader who brings deep life experience as the proud daughter of working-class immigrants” on her website. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley.
The discussion with the influential Latino labor leader, who has since resigned, focused on protecting Latino political power while redrawing district council boundaries. The once-in-a-decade redistricting process can pit one group against another for political advantage in elections.
Jessica Levinson, a Loyola law professor who previously served on the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, said she saw no evidence in the records that would warrant criminal charges, though Bonta is leaving that possibility open.
However, she said the investigation could force council districts to be redrawn even as the current maps are used to elect new council members next month.
“It’s so rare to have audio … it feels like they’re clearly drawing lines based on race,” Levinson said. “If we ultimately determine that those lines were drawn illegally, there has to be a means to do that, even if practically … it’s a disaster.”
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer called for an independent redistricting commission.
“By now it should be clear to everyone that when you leave the power to draw your own political districts in the hands of elected officials, that’s a recipe for a conflict of interest and an invitation to backroom deals,” Feuer said.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the post was posted on Reddit by a now-suspended user. It’s unclear who recorded the audio, who uploaded it to Reddit, or whether anyone else was present at the meeting.
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