California Attorney General Rob Bonta is launching an independent investigation into the Los Angeles's City Council redistricting process, his office announced Wednesday morning.
The investigation comes days after a leaked audio recording captured three councilmembers -- including the City Council President -- making disparaging and racist remarks about one of their fellow councilmembers and his young Black son, while discussing the redrawing of district boundaries.
In a press release announcing the investigation, Bonta called the comments made by now-former City Council President Nury Martinez, Councilman Kevin de León and Councilman Gil Cedillo "deeply concerning."
The state AG's office will investigate "whether there were any violations of state or federal voting rights laws and transparency laws," in an effort "consistent with the Attorney General’s authority under the California Government Code and the California Constitution."
Get Southern California news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC LA newsletters.
"Let me be absolutely clear: The job of a public official is to serve the people. We’re elected to represent our constituents to the best of our abilities, doing the most good for the most people," said Bonta. "As a father and human being, I am deeply appalled by the remarks made by some of Los Angeles’ highest-ranking officials. Their comments were unacceptable, offensive, and deeply painful."
"There is no place for anti-Black, antisemitic, anti-Indigenous, anti-LGBTQ, or any kind of discriminatory rhetoric in our state, especially in relation to the duties of a public official," Bonta said.
"As Attorney General, I am committed to doing my part to ensure the rights of the people of California are protected. The decennial 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. The leaked audio has cast doubt on a cornerstone of our political processes for Los Angeles."
Redistricting takes place every ten years in Los Angeles, following the U.S. Census count of the population.
"...The Los Angeles City Charter requires that district boundaries for the City Council be redrawn so that each district is as equal in population as possible and practicable so that communities have equal access to political representation," the city's website says.
The districts drawn every ten years determine where LA residents can vote and who might represent them.
The last redistricting effort took place in 2021.
The comments in the leaked audio recording were made during a private meeting with the LA County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera in October of 2021.
It is not clear if anyone else was present or who recorded the conversation. NBC4 has also not yet determined if the audio was altered or edited.
In that recording, Martinez and De León make disparaging remarks about white fellow councilman Mike Bonin's young Black son. The remarks included several racist slurs.
"The kid's bouncing off the effing walls on the float, practically tipping it over. There's nothing you can do to control him, parece changuito," Martinez said on the recording, referring to a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade that Bonin and his son participated in.
The phrase "parece changuito" translates to "like a little monkey."
"They're raising him like a little white kid,'' Martinez said. "I was like, 'this kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I'll bring him back.'"
De León also suggested Bonin's son is his accessory, comparing Bonin's handling of his son at the MLK Parade to "when Nury brings her little yard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag."
"Su negrito, like on the side,'' Martinez added, using a Spanish term for a Black person that's considered demeaning by many.
At another point, Martinez recalled a conversation with businessman Danny Bakewell about possibly transferring Los Angeles International Airport out of Bonin's council district and into that of Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson. The council president said she told Bakewell to "go get the airport from his little brother -- that little bitch Bonin."
Martinez also took aim at Los Angeles County District George Gascón inprofane terms, after the group appeared to discuss whether Gascón would endorse Cedillo in his re-election campaign against Eunessis Hernandez.
"F--- that guy. (inaudible)...He's with the Blacks,'' she said of Gascón.
Aside from the numerous offensive comments and racial slurs, the leaked audio recording also included discussion of efforts to replace Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has been indicted on federal corruption charges.
Martinez, who resigned from her position as City Council President on Monday and announced that she is taking a "leave of absence" from her City Council seat on Tuesday, represents District 6, which includes Van Nuys, Lake Balboa, North Hills and Panorama City, among other neighborhoods.
De Leon represents District 14, which includes Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, Downtown LA, and El Sereno. Cedillo represents District 1, which includes Highland Park, Chinatown, Mount Washington, Echo Park, Elysian Park, Westlake, Koreatown, Lincoln Heights, and MacArthur Park.
De Leon and Cedillo have not resigned from their City Council seats, as of Wednesday at noon.