Oct 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

L.A. City Council elects new president after racist audio leak

Councilmember Paul Krekorian speaking in a meeting in August 2022.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian speaking in a meeting in August 2022. Photo:Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday elected councilmember Paul Krekorian as its new president to replace Nury Martinez, the body's previous president who resigned from the council last week after leaked audio revealed her making racist remarks about another member's son.

Why it matters: It's a step toward stabilizing the legislative body, which has been hindered by public disruptions in the fallout of the audio scandal first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

  • The meeting was mostly virtual because of COVID-19 concerns after Krekorian tested positive for the virus over the weekend, according to the Times.
  • Mitch O’Farrell, who served as acting president since Martinez's resignation, presided over a mostly empty chamber with only a few staff members and reporters inside.

What they're saying: "Needless to say, this is one of the most challenging times our city has ever faced, and I'm ever mindful of what's before us," Krekorian said after being elected unanimously in a 10 to 0 vote.

  • "The city is still grieving, and we're working overwhelmingly together to try to overcome what we experienced over the last week," he added. "Los Angeles has seen an overwhelming rejection of the statements that were made by our colleagues."

Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, who participated in a discussion with anti-Black and anti-Indigenous comments in the leaked audio, were not present at the council meeting on Tuesday.

  • Protesters held demonstrations outside City Hall during the meeting, demanding De León and Cedillo's resignation, with confrontations erupting between police and protesters at the entrance of the building.
  • Callers during the virtual public comments section repeatedly asked other councilmembers to leave the meeting and break quorum, saying the body should not hold meetings or select a new president before De León and Cedillo resigned.
  • Demonstrators accused the council of overblowing its coronavirus concerns to exclude to the public from the chamber.

The big picture: Krekorian said he would continue pursuing De León and Cedillo's resignations and would attempt to censure them, but stressed that the council's actions could not be suspended until that time.

  • "We just can't allow two members who are in a position of having dishonored their offices to — by their decision, or lack of decision — hold the city hostage. It cannot be the case that that happens," Krekorian said.
  • O’Farrell on Monday removed De León and Cedillo from their committee chairmanships and assignments and said he personally asked them to resign, but they have not indicated they intend to.
  • O’Farrell previously said he did not want to become president.
  • De León and Cedillo, who have apologized, have faced calls to resign from resign from advocacy groups, community members and the White House.

Go deeper: L.A. City Council crisis exposes Black-Latino divisions — and unity

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper