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Los Angeles police investigating whether council members were recorded illegally

The recording prompted the City Council’s president to resign and threw the government into turmoil that continued Tuesday.
Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian looks on as people holding signs protest during the Los Angeles City Council meeting Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022 in Los Angeles. A small group of protesters is chanting throughout the meeting calling for the resignations of Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, but the meeting is continuing over the chants. (Ringo Chiu via AP)
Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian looks on as people protest at a council meeting Tuesday.Ringo Chiu / AP

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles police are investigating whether audio of members of the City Council making racist comments was recorded illegally, the police chief said Tuesday.

The recording from 2021 was leaked online and published by the Los Angeles Times this month.

It has created a firestorm of controversy that led to the resignation of City Council President Nury Martinez — first from her leadership role and then from the council altogether — and demands that two other members also resign.

Police Chief Michel Moore said in a media availability Tuesday that the police department was asked Friday to investigate whether the group was illegally recorded.

Investigators do not have a suspect, and “at this point the investigation is wide open,” Moore said in response to questions by The Associated Press, video of which police posted online.

California law requires the consent of all parties to record private communications.

The 2021 meeting was attended by Martinez, council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, and Ron Herrera, the president of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Moore answered "yes" when he was asked whether Martinez, de León, Cedillo and Herrera made the request.

"A communication by the individuals that were in the meeting came to the department and asked for an investigation and the assertion that a crime had been committed, that they had been unlawfully and surreptitiously recorded," Moore said. "And we’re conducting that investigation."

Herrera has resigned. A spokesperson for the labor federation said that he no longer works for the organization and that the current leadership did not make the request.

De León and Cedillo have not resigned, despite calls to do so.

De León's office did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment Tuesday night. Attempts to reach the office of Cedillo, who lost a primary in June and whose term ends in December, were not successful.

Protesters shouted over council members at their meeting Tuesday, demanding that de León and Cedillo resign, NBC Los Angeles reported.

At the 2021 meeting, which apparently was about political strategy and redistricting, Martinez used racist language to refer to the Black son of another council member, Mike Bonin. She used a Spanish term to refer to the child as an animal.

Martinez, Cedillo, de León and Herrera are Latino Democrats. Martinez also at one point is heard saying of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, in part, “he’s with the Blacks.”

The recording surfaced on a Reddit discussion board this month but was deleted. The source of the audio is unknown, and NBC News has not determined whether it has been edited.

Martinez resigned as a City Council member Oct. 12, two days after she stepped down as council president.