LA City Council

Nury Martinez Resigns as LA City Council President Over Recording That Included Racist Slurs

Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo issued apologies Sunday for an attack on Mike Bonin during a conversation in 2021 that included racist slurs.

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Nury Martinez announced Monday that she has resigned as Los Angeles City Council President.

The announcement made in an email sent from her office comes after a recorded October 2021 conversation involving Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, and a top LA County labor official was made public. They apologized Sunday for an attack on colleague Mike Bonin during the recorded conversation that included racist slurs by Martinez directed at Bonin's young son.

It was not immediately clear who recorded audio of the conversation, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, about council redistricting that involved three members of the council and a county labor official. The audio -- it appeared on Reddit, but was later removed from the site -- also includes discussion of efforts to replace Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who's been indicted on federal corruption charges.

Martinez, who assumed office in 2013 and became president in January 2020, issued the following statement Monday morning.

"I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments. I’m so sorry.

"I sincerely apologize to the people I hurt with my words: to my colleagues, their families, especially to Mike, Sean, and your son. As a mother, I know better and I am sorry. I am truly ashamed. I know this is the result of my own actions. I’m sorry to your entire family for putting you through this.

"As someone who believes deeply in the empowerment of communities of color, I recognize my comments undercut that goal. Going forward, reconciliation will be my priority. I have already reached out to many of my Black colleagues and other Black leaders to express my regret in order for us to heal.

"I ask for forgiveness from my colleagues and from the residents of this city that I love so much. In the end, it is not my apologies that matter most; it will be the actions I take from this day forward. I hope that you will give me the opportunity to make amends.

"Therefore, effective immediately I am resigning as President of the Los Angeles City Council."

NBCLA reached out to Martinez's office to confirm whether she plans to resign from her City Council District 6 seat. The district includes North Hollywood, Van Nuys, Sun Valley and other San Fernando Valley communities.

It was not immediately who will replace Martinez as president of the 15-member body.

Several protests were planned for Monday in response to the publication over the weekend of the recorded audio. Calls quickly mounted Sunday for her resignation.

"Actions demand consequences and accountability was delivered this morning with the resignation of Nury Martinez as President of the LA City Council," Councilmember Curren Price said Monday. "Now is the time for the Council to work together as a cohesive unit to achieve the ideals, principles and values so that our City can heal from this trauma.

"We will not allow this demonstration of hate and racism to undo all the progress we have made. We are one LA."

Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, the council president pro tempore, was among a number of officials saying Martinez, de León and Cedillo should all resign their council seats.

"I don't see how that presence continuing in city leadership is going to allow the city to move forward,'' O'Farrell said Monday. "I just think that that presence will continue to be an obstacle if it is still there in the halls of power at City Hall.''

Martinez, De León and Cedillo issued apologies Sunday.

Martinez said the comments were made in a "moment of intense frustration and anger" in which she "let the situation get the best of me."

De León called the comments inappropriate.

"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,'' De León said in a statement provided to NBC4. "On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders -- and I will hold myself to a higher standard.''

Cedillo also issued a statement with an apology.

"I want to start by apologizing," he said. "While I did not engage in the conversation in question, I was present at times during this meeting last year. It is my instinct to hold others accountable when they use derogatory or racially divisive language. Clearly, I should have intervened. I failed in holding others and myself to the highest standard. The hurtful and harmful remarks made about my colleague’s son were simply unacceptable. We choose public life, but our families should always be off limits and never part of the political discourse."

The remarks were made during a talk with LA County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.

It is not clear if anyone else besides the council members and Herrera was present or who recorded the conversation. NBC4 has also not yet determined if the audio was altered or edited.

Among other comments, Martinez belittled Bonin, who is white and has a Black son, and criticized the child for his behavior at a Martin Luther King Day parade, saying Bonin's son was misbehaving on a float, which might
have tipped over if she and the other women on the float didn't step in to "parent this kid".

"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.'"

Outrage outside the home of LA city president Nury Martinez comes after leaked recordings. Darsha Philips reports for the NBC4 News on Oct. 9, 2022.

Martinez also called the child "ese changuito,'' Spanish for "that little monkey."

In a statement Sunday, Bonin called on the council to immediately remove Martinez from the council president's seat and demanded she resign from the council

“We are appalled, angry and absolutely disgusted that Nury Martinez attacked out son with horrific racist slurs, and talked about her desire to physically harm him,” Bonin said in a statement. “It’s vile, abhorrent, and utterly disgraceful. The City Council needs to remove her as Council President immediately, and she needs to resign from office. Any parent reading her comments will know she is unfit for public office.”

De León also criticized Bonin. "Mike Bonin won't (f---ing ever say peep about Latinos. He'll never say a f---ing word about us."

De León also compared 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.

Bonin told The Times he was at 2017's MLK parade with his young son.

"There's more I will say later, but right now because I'm still digesting it. I'm disgusted and angry and heartsick. It's fair game to attack me but my son? You have to be pretty petty and insecure and venomous to attack a child. He wasn't even 3 years old. Other than that, I'm speechless.''

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.

Gascón issued a statement Sunday afternoon.

"I am saddened and disappointed by the racist comments made in the conversation between various LA City Councilmembers," Gascón said. "I share the outrage of Councilmember Bonin as well as all members of the African American community. Anti-Blackness has no place in Los Angeles."

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was saddened by the comments.

"The Los Angeles I love is a welcoming and nurturing place," said Mayor Garcetti. "As Mayor, as a father, and as an Angeleno, I am saddened by what I read. There is no place in our city family for attacks on colleagues and their loved ones, and there is no place for racism anywhere in LA. Everyone in our city deserves to feel safe and treated with equal respect. These words fall short of those values."

In a statement released Monday Mayor Garcetti said that all the council members involved should step down.

"Bigotry, violence, and division too often live in unseen and unheard places, but have severe consequences on the lives of our fellow Angelenos when they are not confronted and left to infect our public and private lives," said Mayor Garcetti. "Stepping down from the council would be the right response by these members in a moment that demands accountability and healing at a time of great pain and deep disappointment."

Herrera has not commented on the story, but a lawyer representing the LA County Federation of Labor sent a letter to The Times alleging that the conversation was recorded in violation of California's privacy and recording laws.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, is demanding that the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti publicly censure Martinez and de León.

"Their apology for using terms such as 'little monkey' to describe an African-American youth for instance promotes and reinforces the vilest stereotypes of African-Americans (and) is not enough,'' Hutchinson said in a statement Sunday provided to City News Service. "Nothing less than a full censureship by the city council and endorsed by Garcetti will send the message that vile racist stereotypes will not be tolerated and will be quickly punished.''

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