When a disgraced Nury Martinez resigned from her City Council perch on Wednesday, a whole new legion of Los Angeles politics watchers began wondering when Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León would follow suit. After all, the calls for them to step down are resounding—even Sen. Alex Padilla and the White House are saying it is time to say goodbye.
As of Friday afternoon, these two men are still in their jobs, with Cedillo representing District 1 and de León District 14. This remains the case following the cancellation of Friday’s City Council meeting as fury from members of the public at sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday was too much.
The two deeply experienced, former Sacramento politicians are hoping they can ride out this firestorm, observers are speculating, as it was Martinez who delivered the lion’s share of racist comments in the conversation heard on the leaked audio surreptitiously recorded during a meeting with a labor leader.
There may be another reason why these two have gone underground but refuse to resign. Actually, in Cedillo’s case, it may be about 37,000 reasons. For de León, it would be even more.
Each council member earns a very healthy salary with annual pay this year coming in at approximately $225,000; pension and other benefits bring their total compensation much higher.
Cedillo stunningly lost a re-election bid in June to progressive challenger Eunisses Hernandez. The next slate of city officeholders is scheduled to be inaugurated on Dec. 14, which means that from today, Cedillo has two more months in office. Break it down and the base pay of City Council members is approximately $18,500 per month. For Cedillo, that works out to $37,000 more to earn in his council career.
Former California state Senate President de León has a council term that runs until 2024, so if he withstands the moment, he could go on earning nearly a quarter million annually for two more years and longer if he were to win re-election. Not to mention that the more time an official spends in office the higher their pension becomes.
In 2021, Martinez, Cedillo, and de León all made about $218,000 in base pay, according to Transparent California, a database of salary and pension information for public employees in the state. The database listed benefits for Cedillo and de León at about $80,000; it put Martinez’s benefits package at over $87,000. Resigning immediately halts these checks.
These two may also be holding on to their jobs for dear life because of the damning headlines and attention the scandal is generating around the world. This makes any immediate job prospects for the embattled pols pretty dim. That is unlikely to be the case for those heard on the audio forever but abruptly going from six figures to relying on savings can force a harsh change in lifestyle.
Los Angeles elected officials who leave office and are of working age normally have no shortage of prospects. Some turn to the nonprofit sector or take a government post, such as a department head, while (most) others segue into the worlds of business, lobbying, or consultancy. After all, the private sector is forever in need of individuals who not only know how the government works but also who have relationships with people inside the halls of power and can help navigate big projects through layers of bureaucracy.
The opportunities can be lucrative. A 2017 San Jose Mercury News article reported that after he left the mayor’s office, Antonio Villaraigosa was earning more than $1 million annually consulting for companies such as water behemoth Cadiz and supplements force Herbalife (the figures were revealed in tax returns AnVil released during his run for governor).
And de León has already sipped from the private-sector stream after leaving the state Senate and before joining the council, working as a consultant for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Healthy Housing Foundation.
And let’s not forget that first-term Valley Councilman Felipe Fuentes stunned City Hall by leaving his post in 2016, 10 months before his term expired to take a job with a Sacramento lobbying firm Two years later, the political world was surprised again when another Valley council rep, Mitch Englander, quit his seat early to join a sports and entertainment firm. Englander knew he was being investigated by the FBI, as we all later learned, as part of its “Operation Casino Loyale,” whose many targets also include José Huizar.
In the latter case, the scandal came after an elected official’s departure from City Hall. Here, the stunning headlines came first. For now, Cedillo and de León will continue to get paid by us; how long this will go on is impossible to say—but that suspense is likely nothing compared to the tension these two men are feeling as they twist in the wind.