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Los Angeles councilmember refuses to resign after audio leak

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Madison Hirneisen

(The Center Square) – Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León announced Wednesday that he will not step down from his position despite mounting calls for his resignation in the aftermath of a leaked conversation that featured racist remarks.

De León told CBS Los Angeles  Wednesday that he will not resign from his position on the Los Angeles City Council, saying the city needs to come together to “heal” and he wants to be a part of it. De León also participated in an interview in Spanish that aired Wednesday with Televisa Univision.

“I’m sorry to my constituents, I’m sorry to my colleagues, I’m sorry to the family of Mike Bonin, to my family, to all those who have supported me, especially the janitors and security officers and hotel workers, because I failed,” de León told CBS. “I failed to step up and shut down a conversation.”

“My constituents deserve representation,” he later added. “I know I have to do the hard work, I know I have to do the really damn hard work to repair and to restore the breach of trust that I’ve lost with so many folks, but my district does deserve representation, and I plan to continue to represent my constituents.”

De León was involved in a conversation with City Councilmember Gil Cedillo, former City Council President Nury Martinez and former Los Angeles Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera in October 2021. The four Latino leaders engaged in a conversation about consolidating political power through redistricting where racist remarks and disparaging comments about colleagues were made.

The conversation was revealed in a leaked recording first published by the Los Angeles Times earlier this month. On the recording, Martinez can be heard referring to Councilmember Mike Bonin’s Black son as “little monkey,” and de León compared the child to one of Martinez’s handbags.

De León told CBS that the comment he made was more directed at Martinez’s “penchant for having luxury goods,” adding that it was a joke towards her. He said he tried to apologize to Bonin and his family, but he could only leave a voicemail.

The leaked conversation sparked outrage across the state, resulting in mounting calls for all four individuals involved to resign. U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and even President Joe Biden joined the chorus in calling for resignations.

Facing pressure to step down, Herrera and Martinez resigned from their posts earlier this month. Elected officials and Los Angeles residents have continued to call for the resignations of de León and Cedillo in the aftermath of the leaked recording.

Protesters flooded the City Council chambers last week, demanding the resignations of Martinez, de León and Cedillo. This week’s City Council meetings were held online due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the council, but protesters still crowded outside the doors of City Hall to demand resignations.

Several sitting members of the council have openly voiced that they want to see de León and Cedillo resign, including Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who served as acting president after Martinez resigned from her leadership role. On Monday, O’Farrell announced he was stripping de León and Cedillo from their committee assignments – the latest attempt to pressure the two members to resign.

O’Farrell is no longer acting president after the council elected a new president on Tuesday, Councilmember Paul Krekorian.

Councilmember Bonin responded shortly after the interview aired on CBS, calling de León’s comments “gaslighting of the highest order.”

“He cannot be a part of the healing as long as he refuses to resign,” Bonin said in a statement. “His stubborn refusal to do what everyone else knows is necessary is deepening the wound he has inflicted on Los Angeles.”