Los Angeles city official resigns amid furor over racist comments

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Council member Nury Martinez speaks prior to a City Council vote to increase minimum wage at City Hall in Los Angeles, California September 24, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

LOS ANGELES, Oct 12 (Reuters) - A Los Angeles city councilwoman at the center of a scandal over racist comments exposed in a recorded phone call resigned on Wednesday in the face of a fierce citywide outcry.

Democrat Nury Martinez, who had represented Los Angeles' sixth district since 2013, was urged to step down by fellow members of the city council, state and local political leaders and even U.S. President Joe Biden.

Martinez, 49, gave up her post as president of the council on Monday. On Tuesday said she would take a leave of absence before ultimately announced in a written statement on Wednesday afternoon that she would quit.

"It is with a broken heart that I resign my seat for Council District 6, the community I grew up in and my home," Martinez said in the lengthy statement, which did not directly reference the taped phone call.

Two other Democratic city council members, Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo, who were part of the recorded discussion, have defied calls to resign. Both men have issued apologies but left a council meeting on Tuesday after raucous protesters disrupted the proceedings.

The phone call, which included a local labor leader, took place in October 2021 and centered on the council members' resentment about a proposed redistricting. It came to light only this week, ahead of a city election in November, after it was posted on a Reddit message board and reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The labor leader, Ron Herrera, has resigned this week from his position as president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

"This is the right move," California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a written statement on Martinez' resignation. "Again, these comments have no place in our state, or in our politics, and we must all model better behavior to live the values that so many of us fight every day to protect."

Earlier on Wednesday, the state's attorney general, Rob Bonta, said he would open an investigation into the city council with regard to its redistricting process.

Martinez, who became council president in 2020, is heard on the tape saying that her colleague Mike Bonin, who is white, treated his Black son as if he were an "accessory" and compared him to a "changuito," which translates roughly as "little monkey."

Martinez also disparaged Mexicans from Oaxaca and voiced her displeasure with Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, saying "he's with the Blacks."

Reporting by Tyler Clifford in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Chris Gallagher, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle

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