Paul Krekorian was elected the new president of the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday as officials reel from a racism scandal involving three members.
Ten members present during the virtual meeting voted unanimously for the councilman, who represents the 2nd District, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who was serving as acting president amid the scandal, indicated in a statement that Krekorian is the first Armenian American to serve as president of the council.
“As I hand the baton to Council President Krekorian, I have full faith and confidence that he will help guide our city with the experience, steady hand, and unifying voice that these challenging times require,” O’Farrell said. “I know the Council President will help ensure we directly address the very issue that has caused such devastation and harm. I am eager to work with Council President Krekorian and all of my colleagues to expeditiously move this imperative forward.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti commended the selection and called Krekorian a “committed and conscientious leader.”
“I am confident that he’ll assemble a leadership team of bridge builders, and I’ll work closely with the Council to help heal the wounds caused by the hateful words of a few,” the mayor said in a statement. “Our collective mission must be partnering to press forward on the causes of racial justice and inclusive government – and pushing for new reforms to bring greater transparency, fairness, and decency to how business is conducted and people are treated by those who represent them at City Hall.”
Earlier, Los Angeles police in riot gear faced off with yelling protesters outside a City Hall entrance demanding the City Council stop its meeting until two councilmen resign for their part in a private meeting that involved crude, racist remarks.
The protest of about 50 people took place outside a door of City Hall, though the Council was meeting virtually with only O’Farrell and staff inside the chambers. Demonstrators chanted, “No resignations, no meeting!” Police pushed back protesters who retreated across the street without incident.
The Council has been in upheaval for the past week after an explosive recording was leaked of a private meeting in which then-Council President Nury Martinez made crude and racist remarks, and Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo didn’t object or joined in the offensive banter.
Martinez made racist remarks about the Black son of a white councilman and other crude comments. Those involved in the year-old meeting were all Latinos, who focused much of the discussion on scheming to protect their political power during the redrawing of Council district boundaries.
Martinez has since stepped down but de León and Cedillo have so far resisted widespread calls for their resignations, including from President Joe Biden.
Last week, protesters crowded into the Council chamber and angrily called for the councilmen to resign. Those complaints continued unabated during the virtual meeting Tuesday, as a long list of speakers called for the Council to suspend business until de León and Cedillo step down.
De León and Cedillo did not attend the virtual meeting.