LA City Council

What Happens to Nury Martinez's Vacated LA City Council Seat?

In the short term, a non-voting caretaker will be part of the 15-member Los Angeles City Council in the seat vacated by Nury Martinez's resignation.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The resignation of one of three embattled Los Angeles City Councilmembers who were part of a recorded conversation that included racist attacks on a colleague's young son leaves a vacancy on the 15-member panel and questions about what happens next in the district she represented.

Nury Martinez stepped down from her Sixth District seat Wednesday, days after the recording of her explosive October 2021 discussion about redistricting with Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, and a top county labor official was made public. Her announcement followed days of backlash and public pressure from local, state and national political leaders.

The Council will move forward with a caretaker appointment in the Sixth Council District, which includes the San Fernando Valley communities of North Hollywood, Sun Valley, Van Nuys, Lake Balboa, Panorama City, Pacoima and Arleta.

When a Council seat is vacated, the body's president can appoint a non-voting caretaker. In this case, Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell became the acting president after Martinez resigned Monday from that role. The caretaker can remain in the office until a new member takes office through an election or the Council president decides to remove that individual.

O'Farrell announced Thursday that the city's chief legislative analyst will immediately assume the caretaker role. The CLA office helps the Council develop legislative programs, and provides budget analysis and research.

His statement indicated a special election might be held, allowing voters to choose a new member. Martinez's term was set to expire at the end of 2024. It was not immediately clear when a special election would be called.

"Now that there is a vacancy in the Sixth Council District, the immediate appointment of a Caretaker will ensure that the office continues to operate and that matters important to constituents are handled," O'Farrell said. "Moving forward, I will immediately begin to explore the logistics of holding a special election for the Sixth District, so that voters will have the opportunity to choose their next Councilmember. Most importantly, I want to hear from the constituents of the Sixth District, who deserve a full voice in their government. This vacancy was created through no fault of their own."

The caretaker will oversee the operations of the Council office, which include constituent inquiries and requests, communications, personnel, payroll, office management, and working with City offices, O'Farrell said in his office's statement.

The caretaker is not seated as a Council member and cannot vote on Council matters. Sharon Tso currently serves as the Chief Legislative Analyst.

At least two other council members, Paul Krekorian and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, have expressed support for a special election for Martinez's seat, as well as for de León's seat if he resigns.

Recently, Councilwoman Heather Hutt served as non-voting caretaker of the 10th District for several months before being appointed as council member last month in place of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is suspended as he awaits trial on federal corruption charges. Previous fill-in Councilman Herb Wesson was legally barred from serving on the council.

Aside from vacant council seats, a longer term issue looms large on the horizon -- the future of LA's redistricting process. The recording of the October 2021 provided a disturbing glimpse of a closed-door session that primarily focused on redrawing district boundaries and veered wildly into insults and racist remarks.

On Wednesday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, another Democrat, said he will investigate Los Angeles’ redistricting process, which could lead to civil liability or criminal charges, depending on what is found. The Los Angeles City Attorney issued calls for a ballot measure on an independent commission to handle redistricting matters.

"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, anti-Semitic, anti-Indigenous, anti-LGBTQ, or any kind of discriminatory rhetoric in our state, especially in relation to the duties of a public official."

Will Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo resign from the LA City Council?

That's the question at City Hall.

Neither has indicated whether they plan to step down. De León's term expires in December 2024. Cedillo lost his re-election bid to Eunessis Hernandez earlier this year.

Krekorian suggested swearing in Hernandez immediately, if Cedillo resigns.

The City Council can only request Cedillo and de León to 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.

Both Councilmembers appeared at Tuesday's Council meeting -- the first since the firestorm began -- but left after a conversation with other members. Neither attended a Wednesday Council meeting that was delayed several times by protests before O'Farrell adjourned the meeting and moved all agenda items to Friday's session, but announced Thursday that meeting also was canceled.

"The people's business cannot be conducted until we have the next two resignations," O'Farrell said Thursday. "In the court of public opinion, the verdict has been rendered and they must resign. There's too much pain."

O'Farrell said he spoke with Cedillo at length about his plans, but did not provide details. He said he and his colleagues have tried, but been unable to reach him.

The fallout stems from the public release over the weekend of a recorded October 2021 conversation. The conversation about redistricting included several racist comments and other insults, including several directed by Martinez at the adopted 2-year-old Black son of Councilmember Mike Bonin.

Among comments in the conversation, 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.'"

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

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.

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, which 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.

Contact Us