City Council censures De León, Cedillo, Martinez after police clear out demonstrators

Protestors disrupt a meeting holding signs
Protestors return to City Hall on Wednesday to demand that no meetings be held until Councilmembers Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo have resigned. The council censured both men in a unanimous vote.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to censure three current and former council members for their part in an incendiary conversation that contained racist remarks.

The vote appeared to mark the first time that the City Council has censured one of its own members, a move that carries no legal weight but adds to the public pressure on Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin De León to resign. Councilmember Nury Martinez stepped down two weeks ago.

Before the vote, police officers cleared the council chamber of about two dozen protesters who were demanding that the council stop meeting until Cedillo and De León resigned. The police issued a dispersal order to empty the room, a tactic usually reserved for handling street protests, and demonstrators eventually filed out.


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The dramatic events were another sign of how the year-old audio, which captured the three council members and a high-level labor leader in a conversation featuring divisive and derogatory remarks, has upended City Hall.

Under City Charter rules adopted in 2000, the council may, by a two-thirds vote, adopt a resolution of censure against members whose actions “constitute gross failure to meet the high standards of personal and professional conduct.”

City Council President Paul Krekorian said he wants the council to confer with its lawyers on whether there are other steps it can take to remove De León.

The censure vote sends the message that “these comments are unacceptable to us and that we disassociate ourselves from them as a body,” said Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents part of South L.A.

“This censure isn’t just about the offensive words that they used, and it isn’t just about their attempt to take power from a protected class,” said Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, who represents part of the west San Fernando Valley. “It is also about their abdication of their duty as council members to represent all of their constituents.”

Both Cedillo and De León have apologized in recent weeks. De León, in a radio interview Monday, said he did not display leadership when he failed to cut off racist remarks by Martinez. He also said he intends to continue representing his district.


Throughout much of the meeting, protesters chanted, clapped and slammed their hands on the wooden benches, saying every council meeting should be halted until both men have resigned.

Krekorian vowed to keep conducting the council’s meetings. He pointed out that on Tuesday, amid the roar of the protests, the council scheduled a special election for April 4 to replace Martinez, who represented working-class areas in the San Fernando Valley.

Since Martinez stepped down, her district — which includes Van Nuys, Arleta, Panorama City and Sun Valley — has had a nonvoting caretaker.

“If we were not meeting, the people of the 6th Council District would be disenfranchised,” Krekorian said. “A quarter of a million people would be without representation, and that would not change” until an election is held.

Hamid Khan, an organizer with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, pushed back on that idea, telling The Times that “people have been disenfranchised in this city for hundreds of years.”

“I’m sure there are people who want an election” in the 6th District, he said. “But there are many people who don’t. There are many people who don’t want to have business as usual right now.”


Almost two hours into the meeting, with the crowd continuing to make noise, Krekorian instructed police to clear the chamber. He and his colleagues left the room and a Los Angeles Police Department captain issued a dispersal order, giving the crowd 20 minutes to leave.

Demonstrators continued shouting for about 45 more minutes, then filed out, chanting: “Who shut it down? We shut it down!”

A few minutes later, the council returned to the chamber and cast its censure vote.

Some of those protesting were part of a coalition that held a news event earlier in the morning to call for De León’s resignation, a group that included the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Union de Vecinos and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.

The rules of the City Council allow the subject of the request for censure “to make an opening and a closing statement, to call witnesses on his or her behalf and to question his or her accusers.”

Neither De León nor Cedillo, who haven’t attended a City Council meeting in more than two weeks, were present.

Representatives for the two council members did not respond to request for comment Wednesday. However, some in De León’s district called in to the meeting to defend him, saying he should remain in office.


“There has been no evidence of gerrymandering, there has been no criminal charges filed,” said Susana Betancourt, who said she has lived in Boyle Heights for 60 years.

“The public and the neighborhood councils need to listen to those recordings as to who actually said what,” she added.

Pamela Marquez, who is part of Concerned Neighbors of El Sereno, told council members that groups calling for De León’s resignation do not know the district.

“Any action taken for or against Councilmember De León should be made at the voting booth by the constituents of [Council District] 14,” Marquez said.

Earlier Wednesday, an ad hoc committee unanimously approved two motions related to censuring the council members. At that meeting, Councilmember Paul Koretz asked the city attorney advising the council whether the body could censure a City Council member who has already resigned, a reference to Martinez.

“It’s not entirely clear,” said Assistant City Atty. Strefan Fauble.

Cedillo, who lost his reelection bid, is already slated to step down Dec. 11. De León, if he remains in office, will be up for reelection in March 2024.


Speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s vote, Krekorian said that the council had done everything it could to demand “the resignation of our two colleagues.”

“It’s now up to the people of the 14th District to really step forward with a recall or to remove Mr. De León from office,” he said.

Krekorian also wants the city attorney’s office to advise the council on whether it can remove one of its members if that member is absent or hasn’t been performing their duties.

According to the City Charter, an office becomes vacant when the office holder “has been absent from the city without the consent of the council for more than 60 consecutive days.” An office also can become vacant when the incumbent “has ceased to discharge the duties of the office for 90 consecutive days, except when prevented by illness, injury, or other reasonable cause.”