The Los Angeles City Council will meet virtually Tuesday and Wednesday, acting President Mitch O’Farrell said Friday.
O’Farrell cited a COVID-19 exposure Tuesday in council chambers, saying in a statement that a number of elected officials had been exposed, and it was possible there would be more positive cases.
“The virtual meeting is due to the COVID-19 diagnosis, and that’s it. We know Angelenos are still feeling pain and anger, and they have every right to weigh in and express those feelings,” O’Farrell spokesperson Dan Halden said in an email Friday night. “We will take public comment so that people have ample opportunity to make their voices heard.”
Critics suggested that the COVID-19 exposure was being used as an excuse to keep protesters from disrupting the meetings in the wake of this week’s furor over a leaked audio recording of councilmembers making racist and derogatory remarks.
Whether the council would meet at all next week had been in question, as it faced scrutiny and turmoil over the conversation between then-President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and a top labor leader, first reported Sunday by The Times.
Martinez resigned Wednesday; Cedillo and De León are under mounting pressure to step down.
On Thursday, O’Farrell canceled Friday’s meeting, saying, “The people’s business cannot be be conducted until we have these next two resignations.” Several hours later, an O’Farrell spokesperson said his boss intended to hold Tuesday’s meeting as scheduled.
But the ability to conduct an in-person meeting would have been contingent on the council retaining control of its chambers, where loud protests have drowned out their ability to speak in recent days. Protesters have made clear that they intend to shut down future meetings until Cedillo and De León resign.
“Mitch is trying to stop us from shutting meetings down,” the activist group People’s City Council tweeted Friday afternoon.
O’Farrell’s news release cites the city’s COVID-19 workplace safety standards, which require that personnel be tested for COVID-19 five days after a close-contact exposure — meaning those exposed Tuesday should be tested Sunday.
“This timeframe means that, should any additional city personnel test positive for COVID-19, test results may not come back prior to the next scheduled meetings” on Tuesday and Wednesday, the statement says.
The city’s workplace safety standards allow for either PCR or antigen rapid tests.
“After consulting with the city attorney, clerk and [chief legislative analyst]it was determined that the best possible option to ensure everyone’s health and safety was to hold the meeting virtually,” Halden, O’Farrell’s spokesperson, said when asked about the timeline and possible use of rapid tests.
Councilmember Mike Bonin, who delivered a deeply emotional speech at Tuesday’s meeting addressing racist comments Martinez made about his young son, tested positive for COVID-19 in the hours after the meeting. Bonin was in close physical contact with several other councilmembers Tuesday.
Bonin said he had not been feeling well since a Times reporter called him Saturday night for comment about the recording but had previously tested negative for the coronavirus.
He tested positive late Tuesday afternoon, he said. He then texted his fellow councilmembers to inform them, while his staff handled the official personnel notification.
The agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting will include the election of a new president, with public comment taken remotely, O’Farrell’s statement said.