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LA City Council Has Voted To Censure De León And Cedillo. But What Does ‘Censure’ Mean, Exactly?

A split image shows L.A. City Councilmember Gil Cedillo, a man with a medium skin tone, on the left. He's wearing a blue sport jacket and blue collared shirt, and has dark gray hair and a light gray goatee. On the right is Councilmember Kevin de León, also a man with a medium skin tone, wearing a tan windbreaker. He has dark wavy hair and is holding a microphone in one hand and wearing a brown beaded bracelet around that wrist.
File: Los Angeles City councilmembers Gil Cedillo (L) and Kevin de Leon (R) speaking at separate events in 2021.
(Patrick T. Fallon
AFP via Getty Images)
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The L.A. City Council voted today to censure councilmembers Kevin de León and Gill Cedillo, and former member Nury Martinez, for their roles in the racist tapes. It’s likely the first time the council censured its own members.

What does censuring do? Censuring is like a public reprimand. In City Hall, it’s a resolution condemning an official whose actions were “a gross failure to meet” the council’s high standards of conduct, according to the city charter. It doesn’t carry any legal weight, but it’s a way for the council to distance itself, at least on paper.

Can the council do anything more? The council’s options are slim. De León and Cedillo have already been removed from committees, and the council has repeated calls for them to resign. Neither members have been present at recent council meetings. If they’re absent for more than 60 days without council approval, or don’t fulfill their duties for 90 days, their seats could be deemed vacant. How a failure to meet those duties is defined is not yet known.

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Can anything else happen? The charter has provisions about determining incapacity, such as when there is reasonable cause to believe the member will not be able to fulfill their duties — something Council President Paul Krekorian said plainly to de León in a letter on Monday. But it’s not clear if the rules could be applied this way. The other viable option available is for the public to recall de León before his term ends in 2024.