BART today announced a re-organization of its communications department that does not include longtime spokesperson Linton Johnson. When contacted by the San Francisco Examiner, Johnson said, “They’re telling me I no longer speak for the district. If you want answers, you’ll have to go the communications department that I built.”
BART outlined Johnson’s new role in a press release announcing Jim Allison and Luna Salaver as the “key media contact points for BART…” Johnson had been the primary spokesperson until he went on personal leave in late August.
Johnson’s new role, per BART:
Linton Johnson has been appointed to the position of Strategic Program Manager for External Affairs. He will work with BART departments to develop and implement large scale communications strategies for major District programs. Some of these programs include the planning and acquisition of a new rail car fleet for BART, a pilot project to place digital screens on station platforms to improve communication of important messages and public information, and the on-going roll out of the Clipper Card, among other initiatives.
Johnson’s reassignment comes a few months after a particularly difficult period for both him and BART. In August protesters targeted the transit agency over the shooting death by BART police of Charles Hill, a 45-year-old transient who police said had been brandishing a knife at them.
Anti-BART sentiment gained momentum after BART shut down cell phone service in a successful attempt to pre-emptively disrupt a planned protest. A loosely-knit group of computer activists self-identifying under the banner “Anonymous” took severe offense at the action, equating it to tactics used by authoritarian regimes like Egypt during this year’s “Arab Spring.”
Johnson, whose job it was to defend BART over the Hill incident and, previously, the shooting death of Oscar Grant by BART cop Johannes Mehserle, attracted the special ire of the anonymous “hacktivists.” When Johnson acknowledged the idea for shutting down cell service was his, that really enflamed the group, a member of whom publicized semi-nude photos of Johnson, allegedly taken from his web site. Stating that his grandmorther was ill, Johnson then went on personal leave and has not been heard from since.
Full press release from BART:
OAKLAND, CA ñ BART has announced a reorganization of its communication and spokesperson functions to provide more transparent and precise information about its operations. The need to provide comprehensive information on a wide range of functional areas within the organization, combined with the sheer volume of information of interest to the public, drove the decision to diversify the communications roles.
The restructured department now is now led by one Department Manager and two communications officers (CO). The two COs will share media response duties to ensure 24 hour coverage (after hours via pager.) The COs will work with subject matter experts in various departments to respond to media inquiries. In addition, BART is implementing a recommendation made by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) as part of its extensive review of the BART Police Department to establish a Media Representative for the BART Police Department. The BART Police Department Media Representative will work with the Communications Officers to more effectively respond to all media requests for information on BART Police matters.
Jim Allison and Luna Salaver from the Communications Department will remain the key media contact points for BART and will share Communication Officer duties for the agency. Luna Salaver, who is a Public Information Officer on loan from Capital Corridor, will remain as a part time CO until the position is posted and filled. Please contact them for all your information and interview requests. They will direct and facilitate inquiries to the appropriate spokesperson if the question is to be addressed by other functional departments or by the General Manager.
Their contact information is: Jim Allison Office 510 464 7110 Email JAllis1@bart.gov