California AG launches probe of Los Angeles city council redistricting process discussed in secret recording
Three Los Angeles city council members and a labor leader were heard on a secret recording discussing the creation of districts to benefit themselves
California's top prosecutor on Wednesday announced that his office is launching a probe into Los Angeles' redistricting process following a leaked recording of three city council members and a labor union official making racist remarks and discussing the re-drawing of district maps.
The move by Attorney General Rob Bonta comes amid an uproar in City Hall and calls by city leaders and the public to investigate how council districts are drawn up.
"My office will conduct an investigation into the City of LA's redistricting process," Bonta said. "We're going to gather the facts. We're going to work to determine the truth. It's clear an investigation is sorely needed to help restore confidence in the redistricting process for the people of L.A."
City officials have been embroiled in a firestorm this week after a secret recording in which then-City Council President Nury Martinez, council members Kevin de Léon and Gil Cedillo, and Ron Herrera, a labor leader, made racist remarks while discussing how to carve up council districts in an effort to strengthen Hispanic areas.
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Martinez stepped down as council president earlier this week and resigned from the council Wednesday. Herrera left his post on Monday as well.
Cedillo and de Léon have not resigned. All four have apologized. Their remarks have drawn widespread scorn from a long list of California leaders and figures, as well as President Biden.
During the closed-door meeting, the group discussed creating districts to benefit themselves and move "assets" like an airport to Hispanic areas. The districts are re-drawn every ten years and the council ultimately sets the boundaries.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who was elevated to the position of interim president, on Tuesday called for a ballot measure to increase the number of council districts and for a new redistricting process.
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"In taking these steps, we can begin to regain the trust and faith of Angelenos," he tweeted.
Hours after Martinez resigned from the council, City Attorney Mike Feuer called for a special election in the spring of 2023 for his proposal to use an independent redistricting process to create new district maps before the city's 2024 elections.
"As hateful as the remarks revealed over the weekend were, we also need to focus on the context in which they came: redistricting," he said in a statement. "We urgently need to act to begin to heal the divisions in our city and restore public confidence in the way Council boundaries are drawn."
"Leaving the power to draw their own district lines in the hands of the politicians who can benefit from how those lines are drawn is an enormous conflict of interest," Feuer added. "It must end immediately."
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In a tweet, Democratic state Sen. Ben Allen said he was also exploring legislation to create a "non-partisan process in cities like LA to create fair districts independent of self-serving politicians."