Says she was assured by district staff her new Oakland residence was within District 7; seat now vacant
“advice Director Simon…was provided was from individuals that report directly to the BART Board…not the General Manager’s Office. It appears bad advice may have been given…The residency issue was reported to my Office last Thursday, March 3, 2022.” – GM Powers
Director Dufty, Board VP Li want to bring back Simon or be appointed by the Board
By Allen D. Payton
Following the BART board’s adoption of new redistricting maps on Thursday, March 10, 2022, BART announced it was determined as of Wednesday, the BART District 7 Board of Director seat is vacant. BART staff has confirmed Lateefah Simon has moved outside the boundaries of District 7. Based on state law, this move disqualifies her from serving as a BART Director of District 7 which includes Hercules, Pinole, Richmond, San Pablo and a portion of El Cerrito in western Contra Costa County, and parts of Alameda and San Francisco counties.
A mother of two daughters and legally blind, Simon moved last year from her home in Richmond to an apartment complex adjacent to the MacArthur BART station.
According to a report by Bay City News, “Simon said in a statement to supporters that she moved from her previous residence last year due to threats her family received as a result of her support for police reform” and that she was assured by district staff that her new residence was within the District 7 boundaries.
Simon was first elected to the BART Board of Directors on November 8, 2016 and was reelected in 2020. She served as President of the BART Board in 2020.
Efforts to reach Simon for comment were unsuccessful Friday.
According to the BART press release issued on Friday, BART will now follow the procedures for filling a board vacancy including a public application process. The BART Board of Directors has 60 days to appoint someone to fill the vacancy. Ultimately, voters will choose a permanent successor. BART staff will post complete details outlining the process, qualifications, and application in the coming days here on our website.
Questions for BART Staff, Directors
An email was sent early Friday afternoon to the BART Communications Department asking, “Why did it take the district’s staff a year to determine that Ms. Simon had moved outside of District 7? Did she provide her new address to staff at that time? If so, did staff check the boundary lines to ensure Ms. Simon’s new residence was within the boundary of her district? She’s now claiming district staff assured her that her new residence in Oakland…adjacent to the MacArthur Station was inside her district. Is that true? Was this a result of the latest redistricting process and staff discovered they had made a mistake last year?”
In addition, BART staff was asked, “If Ms. Simon wasn’t legally allowed to be on the board as the District 7 member, are all the votes she took since she moved to her new residence voided? Were there any 5-4 votes in which she was in the majority? If so, what were they and might those have to be voided and new votes taken?”
Finally, they were asked to provide a more detailed map for District 7 which was adopted in 2011 that identifies the exact boundary lines between District 7 and District 3.
BART Media Relations Manager James Allison responded, “The extent of the information we are able to provide at this time is contained in this website article,” the information from which is included above.
The same questions were then emailed to the remaining eight members of the Board of Directors.
General Manager Issues Comments on District 7 BART Board Vacancy
However, BART General Manager Bob Powers issued the following statement about the issue early Friday evening:
“Lateefah Simon has been a champion for BART and our riders. The determination that her seat had to be vacated is horribly unfortunate.
I understand there are many questions about how this situation could have occurred. I have some of the same questions. While I know that Director Simon was open, honest, and proud about her home at the MacArthur Transit Oriented Development, I am not able to speculate about any advice she was provided by BART’s board-appointed District Secretary.
According to BART’s Legal Department, state law requires BART Board Members to live in the district they represent, and if a Director moves outside of the district, the seat is vacated.
To prevent this situation from occurring in the future I’m committed to working with the District Secretary’s Office to ensure that when a director chooses to relocate, they will know if the new address falls within their existing district boundaries.
If I had the ability to return Lateefah to the BART Board, I would immediately.
As the leader of this organization, I understand that any issues regarding BART’s performance ultimately falls to me. However, the advice Director Simon indicated she was provided was from individuals that report directly to the BART Board, and not the General Manager’s Office. It appears bad advice may have been given to Director Simon, and on behalf of the District, I wholeheartedly apologize for that.
The residency issue was reported to my Office last Thursday, March 3, 2022. Upon being notified, we immediately reported the concern to the General Counsel’s Office and the District Secretary’s Office. The General Counsel’s Office then confirmed Director Simon’s address and made the determination that the District 7 seat was vacant.
BART needs more voices like Lateefah and I am saddened she is no longer a board member. I will follow the Board’s direction and assist however needed to fill the District 7 seat.”
BART Director Foley Asks Legal Counsel to Answer Questions
District 2 Director Mark Foley responded by saying, “I forwarded the questions to BART’s legal counsel and District Secretary’s Office to work together to answer them. Does it invalidate or does it not? We won’t know until an election expert looks it.”
Director Dufty, Board VP Li Ask GM About Returning Simon or Appointing to Board
District 9 Director Bevan Dufty responded by sharing a letter he and District 8 Director and Board Vice President Janice Li sent to GM Powers on Friday writing, “Happy to share this letter on behalf of myself and Director Li.”
In the letter they ask Powers to enlist the help of expert outside legal counsel to determine either Simon’s “legal right to return or her ability to be appointed by the Board of Directors.”
“Dear GM Powers:
We have seen an outpouring of dismay, anger, and disappointment that Director Lateefah Simon was vacated from her seat without an acknowledgement of multiple specific points of failure that led to absolutely believe she was moving into a residence that was within BART District 7.
We recognize that there is a 60-day window for BART’s Board of Directors to appoint a Director for District 7, but we cannot support moving forward a fair and just appointments process unless and until we have pursued all legal remedies and options that would allow the person who was elected by the people of District 7 to continue representing those constituents.
For the sake of transparency and good faith, we believe that expert outside counsel should be enlisted immediately to help BART and the public determine either her legal right to return or her ability to be appointed by the Board of Directors. We also urge BART to develop a plan to determine and address the points of failure.
We unequivocally support Director Simon and we, therefore, support every legal avenue she has to retain her seat and serve her constituents and the entirety of the BART District.”
Dufty was asked via email late Friday night if they sent the letter to Powers before he issued his comments. He responded on Monday afternoon March 14, “I believe our letter was first.”
Please check back later for any updates to this report.