The Los Angeles City Council met Friday for the first time since embattled member Kevin de León publicly refused to resign over statements made during a recorded conversation that included racist remarks about a colleague's young son.
The council met virtually due to COVID-19 exposure among council members.
In his first public comments about his future on the council after a recording of the October 2021 conversation at the center of the firestorm was made public, De León said this week he does not plan to step down. He has faced widespread calls to resign from other members of the council, and local, state and national leaders.
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De León was not part of Friday's meeting. He asked Council President Paul Krekorian that he be excused from attending council meetings so he can focus on the healing process. Krekorian responded with a statement, saying de León should resign immediately.
Krekorian said "apologies will not be nearly enough to undo the damage that this city has suffered."
"The only way we can begin to heal as a city is for Mr. de León to take responsibility for his actions, accept the consequences, and step down."
Councilmember Mike Bonin, whose 2-year-old adopted Black son was the target of the racist slurs, said de León's apologies are not enough.
"To me, the first step to an apology is going to be a resignation," Bonin said. "This is a diverse city. And, he insulted huge chunks of the city with divisive, harmful, hateful racist comments.
"He's going to have wait 10 or 12 years until my son is old enough to fully understand what he said, and then he can ask my son for forgiveness."
In a tweet, Bonin called the comments "gaslighting of the highest order."
The City Council can only request that the members voluntarily step aside. It cannot expel members, only suspend them when criminal charges are pending. Members can be censured but that doesn't result in suspension or removal from office.
The cloud of uncertainly remains over the council nearly two weeks after the recorded conversation involving de León, then-council president Nury Martinez, Councilmember Gil Cedillo and a top LA County labor official was made public. Martinez resigned in the days following the recording's release.
De León, a former mayoral candidate, has refused to leave the 15-member council despite calls for him to step down that included protests at City Hall and outside his home.
The council has conducted its business this week without the three members, but still had enough for a quorum during the bulk of Tuesday's and Wednesday's meetings. De León and Cedillo attended a council meeting last Tuesday, but left to the sound of chanting protesters after conferring with other members.
A spokesman for Cedillo said Wednesday night that the councilman remains at "a place of reflection."
What is on the agenda for the LA City Council meeting?
On Friday, the council is set to consider an ordinance to prohibit misleading advertising by pregnancy services centers in Los Angeles, recommendations to expand the city's Eviction Defense Program and a report on amending the city code to require air conditioning in all rental units in Los Angeles.
The council will also take up several items accepting grants for housing.
Councilwoman-elect Eunisses Hernandez, who beat Cedillo and is set to represent District 1 beginning Dec. 12, said in a statement this week that the longer de León and Cedillo stay in office, "the more they put these life-saving protections in jeopardy."
Hernandez could be sworn in prior to Dec. 12 if Cedillo steps down and the council chooses to start her term sooner.
While the council met this week, many committee meetings were canceled -- meaning items that need to clear committees before heading to the council will be delayed until next week at the soonest. On Thursday, both the council's Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and River and Information, Technology, and General Services committees put up notices of cancellation hours before the scheduled meetings.
Both de León and Cedillo were also stripped of their committee assignments last week, leaving the vital Homelessness and Poverty, and Housing committees without chairs. Councilwoman Nithya Raman is vice chair for both committees, though Krekorian has the authority to appoint committee members and chairs.