With mayor's race heating up, L.A. council members seek to oust Buscaino from post

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LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07: Los Angeles Mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino held a press conference on the Venice Boardwalk to announce his plans for a Safer Los Angeles to address the homelessness crisis in the city of LA. Venice Boardwalk on Monday, June 7, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times).
Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino, a candidate for mayor, will be leaving his leadership post. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Six members of the Los Angeles City Council called Tuesday for Councilman Joe Buscaino to be removed from his leadership post, days after he and his spokesman were quoted in a magazine article making disparaging remarks about other council members.

Council President Nury Martinez and five of her colleagues drafted a motion calling for Buscaino to be stripped of his position as president pro tempore — the No. 2 leadership position on the council — and replaced by Councilman Mitch O'Farrell.

It's the most visible sign so far that the race for Los Angeles mayor is intruding on the workings of the council. Martinez did not answer questions about the article, instead issuing a one-sentence statement acknowledging the effort to remove Buscaino.

"The time has come for Joe to run his race for mayor," she said, "and I will continue to focus on leading this city and this council without distraction."

The motion is scheduled for a vote next week. However, before Tuesday's council meeting had ended, Buscaino issued a statement announcing that he will give up his leadership post.

Michael Trujillo, a campaign spokesman for Buscaino, said he did not see any connection between the magazine article and the council members’ actions. Buscaino had been expecting to step down for months, he said.

“We knew this was going to happen. It’s a long-held tradition, and other council members have been reaching out to Joe about being pro tem,” Trujillo said.

Buscaino appeared last week in a Los Angeles Magazine profile that featured multiple digs at his colleagues. Two came from his spokesman, Branimir Kvartuc, who was quoted calling Martinez a "disappointment" and saying his boss had a "no fear" attitude.

"Every other council member is so afraid. Even Nury,” Kvartuc told journalist Hillel Aron.

In the piece, which examines Buscaino's run for mayor, Kvartuc also criticized Councilman Kevin de León — who announced his own run for mayor Tuesday. Kvartuc did not immediately provide comment when reached by The Times.

Buscaino, for his part, took a shot at Councilwoman Nithya Raman during an interview at his home in San Pedro, saying: “I don’t think she knows what she signed up for.”

A Raman spokeswoman declined comment.

The position of president pro tem does not come with a great deal of power. However, it has been part of the line of succession for the council presidency.

At City Hall, there is a history of council members who step down from their leadership posts once they have decided to run for higher office.

In 2011, then-Council President Eric Garcetti stepped aside to focus on his run for mayor. In 2019, then-Council President Herb Wesson took a similar step as he campaigned for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Still, neither of those transitions were accompanied by proposals for having a council member removed from their leadership post.

Buscaino has engaged in other campaign activities that disrupted the council's usual decorum. In June, he held a news conference criticizing the city's handling of homelessness in Venice, an area represented by Councilman Mike Bonin — a transgressive move on the normally collegial council.

Two months later, he held another press conference on the issue in O'Farrell's Hollywood-area district. An O'Farrell spokesman said at the time that Buscaino did not tell his boss about the event before sending out a media advisory.

The motion to remove Buscaino from his leadership post was signed by Martinez and Councilmen Bob Blumenfield, Gil Cedillo, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Paul Krekorian and Curren Price.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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