LA City Council scandal: Nury Martinez announces leave of absence

Former Los Angeles City Council president Nury Martinez announced Tuesday she is taking a "leave of absence" amid growing backlash over racist comments she made about Councilman Mike Bonin's Black son that were revealed in a leaked recording from last fall.

This comes a day after Martinez resigned from her post as president. She did not say she would resign her council seat.

"This has been one of the most difficult times of my life and I recognize this is entirely of my own making. At this moment, I need to take a leave of absence and take some time to have an honest and heartfelt conversation with my family, my constituents, and community leaders. I am so sorry to the residents of Council District 6, my colleagues, and the City of Los Angeles," Martinez said in a statement.

The Los Angeles City Council will meet Tuesday for the first time since the scandal erupted over the weekend. With Martinez stepping down, Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, the council president pro tempore, was elevated to interim council president. O'Farrell was among the many council members and other elected officials saying Martinez, de León and Cedillo should all resign from the council.

Martinez said in the recorded conversation that white Councilmember Mike Bonin handled his young Black son as if he were an "accessory" and described the son as behaving "Parece changuito," or "like a monkey."


Martinez also referred to Bonin as a "little bitch" and at another point mocked Oaxacans.

"I see a lot of little short dark people," Martinez said in reference to a particular area of the largely Hispanic Koreatown neighborhood.

"I was like, I don’t know where these people are from, I don’t know what village they came (from), how they got here," Martinez said, adding "Tan feos" — "They’re ugly."

The recording’s content rocked the political establishment just weeks before elections for the mayor’s office and several council seats.

The conversation was recorded in October 2021, and others present were Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera. The overall discussion was about frustrations with redistricting maps produced by a city commission.

The approximately hourlong audio was posted on Reddit by a now-suspended user, and it was unclear who recorded the audio and whether anyone else was present at the meeting.

Martinez initially issued an apology after the recording was made public.

"In a moment of intense frustration and anger, I let the situation get the best of me and I hold myself accountable for these comments. For that I am sorry," she said.


"The context of this conversation was concern over the redistricting process and concern about the potential negative impact it might have on communities of color," she said. "My work speaks for itself. I’ve worked hard to lead this city through its most difficult time."

Martinez, whose district website describes her as "a glass-ceiling shattering leader who brings profound life experience as the proud daughter of working-class immigrants," was elected to the council in 2013 and became the council’s first Latina president in 2020.

De León, a former state legislator, referred at one point in the conversation to Bonin as the council’s "fourth Black member."

"Mike Bonin won’t f—-ing ever say peep about Latinos. He’ll never say a f—-ing word about us," he said.

During the part in which Martinez likened Bonin’s son to an "accessory," De León appeared to compare Bonin’s handling of the child to "when Nury brings her Goyard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag."

"Su negrito, like on the side," Martinez responded.

Bonin’s son came up in a tangent of the conversation in which Martinez suggested the child misbehaved while they were riding on a float in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, the Times said.

"They’re raising him like a little white kid," Martinez said. "I was like, this kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I’ll bring him back."

De León said in a statement that the comments were inappropriate.

"I regret appearing to condone and even contribute to certain insensitive comments made about a colleague and his family in private," he said. "I’ve reached out to that colleague personally."

Cedillo issued a statement of apology Monday.

"While I did not engage in the conversation in question, I was present at times during this meeting last year," he said. "It is my instinct to hold others accountable when they use derogatory or racially divisive language. Clearly, I should have intervened."

Herrera, the labor official, said in an apology that there is "no excuse for the vile remarks made in that room," and that he "didn’t step up to stop them," the Times reported.

Bonin and his husband, Sean Arian, were part of a growing chorus calling for the resignations of Martinez and two other council members who were involved.

"The entirety of the recorded conversation ... displayed a repeated and vulgar anti-Black sentiment, and a coordinated effort to weaken Black political representation in Los Angeles," they said.

Also demanding the council members’ resignations were labor leaders, indigenous groups, the state Democratic Party, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, U.S. Rep. Adam B. Schiff and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

"Bigotry, violence, and division too often live in unseen and unheard places, but have severe consequences on the lives of our fellow Angelenos when they are not confronted and left to infect our public and private lives," Garcetti said in a statement.

You can read more reaction and statements from local and state leaders and organizations by tapping or clicking here. 

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.