L.A. City Council member Nury Martinez on Tuesday said she would take a leave of absence after resigning from her position as president in the fallout of leaked audio from a meeting where she and two other councilmembers were recorded making racist remarks, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The decision comes two days after recording surfaced on which she was heard deriding some of her colleagues and making racist remarks about Black people and Oaxacans. She also made crude remarks about Jewish people and Armenians.
In the recording reviewed by The Times, Martinez can be heard saying the “judíos” — which means Jews in Spanish — “cut their deal with South L.A.”
Martinez was responding to former Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, who had concluded, “I’m sure Katz and his crew have an agenda,” referring to former state Assemblymember Richard Katz.
Katz served on the city’s 21-member redistricting commission that worked on council district boundary maps. He was an appointee of City Councilman Bob Blumenfield.
“They are gonna screw everybody else,” Martinez said in the recording.
The conversation took place in October 2021 and also involved Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo. They were discussing maps that had been proposed by the redistricting commission.
Herrera resigned Monday night amid backlash over the remarks. Multiple calls have been made for Martinez, Cedillo and De León to resign as well.
Martinez also spoke about Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, who is of Armenian descent, and Councilmember Paul Krekorian, the first Armenian American to be elected to public office in Los Angeles.
“He also wants his guy elected,” said Martinez, referring to Krekorian. “So he needs a district that Adrin Nazarian could win it. That’s what they want. They want to assure, they want to be reassured that they have, not an Armenian district in the Valley, because that doesn’t exist, but they want as many Armenians in that district as possible to be able to play.”
Martinez added that she didn’t know whether Nazarian could get elected in a “pretty white” district.
“Now, I don’t think Adrin … gets elected. If a white, a reputable white businesswoman was in that district … [it] is still pretty white. But that’s on them,” she said. “I’m not — I’m not cutting that deal with anybody because I don’t know. I don’t know that he can win.”
Later in the conversation, Martinez was attempting to identify Areen Ibranossian, a former chief of staff for Krekorian who is now a senior advisor to Rick Caruso’s campaign for mayor. Someone in the room asks, “What’s his name? What’s he look like?” She said he’s “the guy with the one eyebrow.”
“I like him,” Martinez said, adding that he is married to a friend of hers.
When Martinez couldn’t recall his last name and asked what it was, Cedillo responded, “It ends in i-a-n, I bet you.”
On Tuesday, Nazarian called for Martinez, Cedillo and De León to resign.
“The racist views and approaches to governing expressed by Councilmembers Martinez, Cedillo and De León represent everything that is wrong in our city government,” he said in a statement posted on Facebook. “In a council whose membership is filled with historic firsts, prejudice should have no place in the leadership conversations of our community. This approach to governance seeks only to pit disenfranchised and often traumatized communities against one another, in a moment in our history when unity couldn’t be more critical.”
The Armenian National Committee of America Western Region similarly condemned the councilmembers’ comments.
“The statements made by the individuals in question not only betray their mission to serve all people, regardless of their identity, but explicitly demonstrate that they hold no regard for the diverse communities of Los Angeles,” the group said in a statement Tuesday. “Racist remarks directed at individuals and groups in Los Angeles are completely unacceptable and reflect a dramatic and egregious failure.”
The organization also called for an investigation into how the recording was made and leaked, and said the context of the conversation among the local politicians and labor leader raises serious concerns about the integrity of the redistricting process.
“This process is one that should not be tarnished by the illegal intervention of policymakers in backdoor meetings held outside the public sphere,” the statement read.
Martinez, De León, Cedillo and Herrera apologized Sunday for their role in the conversation.
Martinez said in a statement announcing her leave of absence that the fallout from the recordings has “been one of the most difficult times of my life.” She also apologized to “the residents of Council District 6, my colleagues and the city of Los Angeles.”
In one of the leaked audio clips, Martinez referred to Councilmember Mike Bonin’s young Black son as “parece changuito,” or “like a monkey,” and said Bonin handled his son as though he were an “accessory.” At one point, she also called Bonin a “little bitch.”
Martinez also mocked Oaxacans, and said, “F— that guy.… He’s with the Blacks,” while speaking about Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón.
The comments from the leaked recordings have sparked outrage across L.A., with Mayor Eric Garcetti, mayoral candidates Karen Bass and Caruso, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and numerous members of the City Council calling for Martinez’s resignation.