Coarse comments from L.A. council members in leaked audio

Three Latino members of the Los Angeles City Council and a senior borough labor official engaged in a conversation last fall that included racist remarks, derisive remarks about their peers and Council President Nury Martinez, in which they said a white councilman had his young black son treated as if he were an “accessory,” according to a transcript of the meeting reviewed by The Times.

During the conversation with councilors Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, Martinez also referred to councilor Mike Bonin as a “little bitch” at one point.

De León seemed to compare Bonin’s handling of his child to Martinez holding a Louis Vuitton handbag. He also referred to Bonin as the “fourth black member” of the council.

“Mike Bonin is never going to fucking bleep about Latinos. He’ll never say a bad word about us,’ he said.

Neither Martinez nor De León responded to repeated requests for comment. Cedillo, contacted by The Times on Saturday night, said: “I have no recollection of that conversation.”

Herrera did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but Julie Gutman Dickinson, an attorney representing the LA County Federation of Labor, sent a letter saying the conversation was “recorded in violation of California privacy and record keeping laws.” . If the Times publishes information from it, “it condones this illegal behavior,” she added.

Times general counsel Jeffrey Glasser responded to Gutman Dickinson in a letter Sunday morning, defending the newspaper’s right to publish the material.

“It is a fundamental principle in the United States that we do not prohibit or penalize the receipt and disclosure of newsworthy information,” Glasser wrote.

The conversation took place in October 2021 and focused heavily on council members’ frustration over maps proposed by the city’s 21-member redistribution commission.

The audio of the wide-ranging conversation, which lasted about an hour, was posted to Reddit by a now-banned user. It’s unclear who recorded the audio, who uploaded it to Reddit, and if anyone else was present.

The group discussed the city’s decennial process, then underway, of redefining the city’s borough boundaries, as well as the need to re-elect Latino councilors and ensuring that heavily Latino-heavy boroughs don’t lose economic assets like USC and Van Nuys Airport.

Bonin’s son was brought into the conversation as the group discussed a dispute between councilors Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who split last year over whose district USC and Exposition Park would represent once the new maps were completed. Both men are black and represent parts of South Los Angeles.

Martinez told the group she had a conversation with businessman Danny Bakewell about the situation, arguing that if Harris-Dawson is looking for an economic asset for his district, he should seek to take Los Angeles International Airport off the West Side to transfer district from Bonin to his.

“Go get the airport from his little brother — that little bitch Bonin,” Martinez recalled while advising Bakewell.

Martinez said Bonin appeared with his son on a float at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade attended by a number of politicians. She also said the child was “an accessory”.

De León seemed to liken Bonin’s handling of the child to “when Nury brings her little garden bag or the Louis Vuitton bag.”

So negritolike on the side,” Martinez said, using a Spanish diminutive term for a black person that can be considered demeaning.

Martinez suggested that if she and the other women on the wagon hadn’t entered to “raise that child,” the child on the wagon misbehaved and might have overturned the wagon.

“They’re raising him like a little white kid,” Martinez said. “I thought this kid needed a spanking. Let me bring him around the corner and then I’ll bring him back.”

In this segment of the conversation, Martinez also refers to Bonin’s young son as “ese changito‘, or this little monkey.

In an interview Saturday night, Bonin said he took part in the MLK parade with his young son in 2017.

“There’s more I’ll say later, but now because I’m still digesting it,” Bonin said. “I’m disgusted and angry and heart ill. It’s fair game to attack me, but my son? You have to be pretty petty and insecure and venomous to attack a child. He wasn’t even 3 years old. Otherwise I’m speechless.”

At another point in the conversation, the group discussed Councilor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ impeachment and whether he would step down or fight to keep his seat.

A few minutes later, Martinez said she explained to another council member that if Ridley-Thomas were suspended, City Controller Ron Galperin would decide whether to still pay him.

“You need to talk to that white man,” she says. “We’re not. It’s the white members on this council who will be mothering you in no time.”

(The council later suspended Ridley-Thomas, who is awaiting trial on federal bribery charges.)

The group heavily criticized the maps produced by the city’s redistribution commission. Martinez expressed frustration that the panel had proposed removing a number of assets from her San Fernando Valley district, including Van Nuys Airport and the Anheuser-Busch Brewery.

“When you talk about Latino districts, what kind of districts are you trying to create?” She asked. “Because you are taking our assets away from us. You’re only going to make poor Latino neighborhoods with nothing?”

At another point, Cedillo said there were certain council members who did not deserve to be “saved” during the reallocation process. He then made it clear that he was referring to Nithya Raman, who had fought to keep her Hollywood Hills district from moving to the West Valley.

“She is not our ally. She won’t help us,” he said.

Later in the conversation, the group discussed how Koreatown — a predominantly Latino neighborhood — should be handled in the reallocation.

Martinez said the area is in Council District 10, the Ridley-Thomas Borough. Martinez then noted that Raman “wants a play for K-Town,” but said that wouldn’t happen because she didn’t want a “beef” with Ridley-Thomas.

Martinez said it would not be good for Martinez and her allies to give Raman what could result in a safer council area.

“It serves us not to give her all of K-Town,” Martinez said, referring to Raman. “Because if you do that, it will solidify their neighborhood, and it’s not good for any of us. You have to keep her on the fence.”

Herrera then threw in to bring the group back to their broader strategy.

“I see what we have to do, right? Just massage to create areas that benefit you all. And the future. But we also need to find out Mark’s seat,” Herrera said, referring to Ridley-Thomas.

“If he resigns and African Americans see that as a hostile takeover because he’s gone, we need to work that out,” Martinez said of Ridley-Thomas. “Because they will come after us politically.”

Herrera, the labor officer, later said the removal of Ridley-Thomas was necessary regardless of a possible political backlash, arguing the scandal would hurt all incumbents and make people think “the council is corrupt”. If they put someone in, “that person has to support you three,” Herrera said.

“The one who’s going to support us is Heather Hutt,” Cedillo said.

De León then introduced nonprofit director Irma R. Muñoz as a possible replacement for Ridley-Thomas, noting that she “is married to an African American man and lives in Baldwin Hills.”

The Council voted in favor of it last month Install Hutt as an interim replacement for Ridley-Thomas.

Times contributors Gustavo Arellano and Brittny Mejia contributed to this report. Coarse comments from L.A. council members in leaked audio

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