BY CBSLA STAFF
OCTOBER 17, 2022 / 1:10 PM / CBS LOS ANGELES
Community leaders are calling on the Los Angeles City Council to reassess the handling of the suspension of councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas -- who was indicted on federal charges alleging corruption -- after audio leaked of racist comments made by multiple councilmembers.
The chaos has also exposed the ongoing political power struggle between Los Angeles' Black and Latino communities. A group of Black civil rights leaders held a news conference Sunday and demanded that Martinez be replaced by one of the council's African American members to "demonstrate its commitment to Black political empowerment and political and racial healing."
In an open letter to acting council president Mitch O'Farrell, civil rights activists Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the National Urban League pointed out that Ridley-Thomas's pay and benefits were immediately revocated by the LA City Controller.
"Inaction on this matter reinforces the narrative that the Council is unable to move beyond [Nury] Martinez's crass self-interested attempts to nullify the votes of people of color," the letter read. The letter comes after Martinez resigned from her seat on the city council.
The letter calls for the council to rectify the "gross injustice being done to your colleague," adding that the comments by Martinez illustrate a "deep disdain for certain people of a darker hue and/or different orientation."
The letter concluded by saying Ridley-Thomas should be afforded the same due process rights and presumption of innocence that law enforcement officers and other civil servants receive in the City of Los Angeles.
"Suspension from office, revocation of representational duties, and pay without a hearing and meaningful public discourse can have far-reaching implications for constituents, staff, the individual member, and democracy itself," the letter said.
Federal prosecutors, and sources, claim that while Ridley-Thomas was on the LA County Board of Supervisors, he gave $100,000 donation to then USC Dean of Social Work Marilyn Flynn's department, who then hired Ridley-Thomas's son Sebastian.
Soon after that, prosecutors allege that Ridley-Thomas sent millions of dollars worth of county contracts to USC.
Black Lives Matter protesters were staging a camp-out Sunday morning in front of Councilmember Kevin de León's home in Eagle Rock, demanding that he step down for his role in the leaked conversation that has already prompted the resignations of former council president Martinez and former L.A. County Federation of Labor president Ron Herrera.
Protests caused the City Council to cancel last Friday's scheduled meeting, and nearly all of their colleagues are urging de León and Councilman Gil Cedillo to resign.
Councilman Mike Bonin -- whose young Black son was the target of some of Martinez's most offensive slurs -- delivered a tearful 12-minute speech in the council chamber at Tuesday's meeting.