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What exactly is a City Council vacancy? LA will seek clarification

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As Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo continue to resist calls to resign over their roles in the City Hall racism scandal, the Los Angeles City Council voted 10-0 on Wednesday, Nov. 2, to seek clarification of what signifies that a council member has vacated his or her office.

Neither de León nor Cedillo have attended a council meeting since Oct. 11, just days after the leaked recording of the 2021 conversation that included racist comments and attempts to manipulate redistricting was leaked.

The city council has also voted unanimously to censure both councilmen, who have been stripped of most of their committee assignments.

Under the City Charter, a council seat would be considered vacant if a council member was absent “without consent of the Council for more than 60 consecutive days” or has “ceased to discharge the duties of the office for 90 consecutive days.” The city council on Wednesday asked City Attorney Mike Feuer to report back within a week, in a closed session, to clarify the two provisions.

The council also sought instruction on the consequences of not allowing censured council members to participate in council and committee meetings, and whether “threats and intimidation to duly elected council members qualifies as a permitted absence.”

City Council President Paul Krekorian reiterated Wednesday that the council has “taken literally every legal step that’s available to us under the City Charter” to urge Cedillo and de Leon to resign, but he sought to explore the two clauses regarding absence from the city and ceasing to discharge the duties of the office.

Krekorian last month denied de León’s request to be excused from council meetings.

“What this item does is allows us to explore … where the limits of the council’s power may be,” Krekorian said.

Fewer than 10 protesters demanded that de León and Cedillo resign before they were removed from the council meeting, as Krekorian again moved quickly to eject a few people who began shouting as the council meeting began.

In other council action on Wednesday, City Councilwoman Nithya Raman introduced a motion seeking to improve communication and collaboration between the city and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, by creating liaison positions assigned to specific council districts.

Raman’s motion asks that the agency, known as LAHSA, report back with a plan to create positions that would “provide council offices with strategic communication, data and metrics, programmatic analysis, regional coordination, and district-level knowledge and support.”

The latest homeless count by LAHSA revealed 41,980 unhoused people in the city of Los Angeles, up 1.7% from 2020.

Raman’s motion claims problems between LAHSA and the city include inconsistency in communication, gaps in knowledge at the city council district level, limits in data-sharing and a “slower overall rate of progress addressing homelessness that the city desperately needs.”

She added that LAHSA lacks dedicated staff to communicate between the agency and council offices regarding its operations, creating a “disjointed approach across the city, with different council offices working with LAHSA to varying degrees on homeless strategies and interventions.”

Raman also sought a report back on funding for the suggested liaison positions.

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