The only Black member on the BART Board of Directors has lost her seat after BART's legal advisers say she moved out of her district.
But Lateefah Simon said that's not what BART told her when she asked about making the move.
The former board president, known for her passionate advocacy on issues such as police reform, is now making a passionate plea against her removal from District 7.
BART said she moved outside the district and therefore can longer represent it.
Simon said she’s deeply disappointed in BART’s decision, adding that she asked the district secretary and was told her new home was still within district boundaries.
In a statement, she said, “I moved to my current residence because I feared for my and my daughter’s safety after receiving multiple threats due to my work on police reform. Before moving, I informed top BART officials and sought their input, and was assured that the building is within District 7. I would not have moved my family otherwise.”
Community leaders, including California Assemblywoman Mia Bonta, and board director Bevan Dufty said there should be an investigation into what led up to BART’s decision. They also worry about what they call a loss of representation for the disabled and underprivileged.
“Lateefah was the voice that brought that to the table and always questioned the board from an equity lens and perspective; we need that to still be there,” said Bonta.
Some BART riders said diversity is good, but all directors, no matter what race, need to focus on the agency's many issues.
“There’s no security guards, barely operators in booth, nothing,” said rider Christian Smith.
What makes it all more confusing is that this week, board members approved a redistricting plan that now includes Simon's new home as part of District 7.
NBC Bay Area contacted BART for comment on how redistricting could allow Simon to represent District 7 again.
BART said the District 7 position is vacant, and it’s looking to fill it in the next 60 days.
BART General Manager Bob Powers issues the following statement:
"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."