Linton Johnson, the embattled BART spokesman who faced national scrutiny over his role in the agency’s decision to thwart a protest by shutting down cellphone service, will no longer be the chief communications officer for the transit agency.
On Monday, BART announced a restructuring of its communications department that will result in Johnson — the longtime face of the agency — working in a behind-the-scenes role.
Johnson formulated the idea to shut down cellphone service in BART stations Aug. 11. As a result of that move, Johnson endured personal attacks from “hacktivists,” who posted partially nude photos purporting to be him. Johnson has been on leave since.
Along with his role in the cellphone shutdown decision, Johnson also received criticism for his plan to bus in pro-agency speakers to a news conference, where the supporters were supposed to denounce BART protesters.
Johnson will now be employed as the agency’s strategic program manager for external affairs. His duties will include developing large-scale communication strategies for major BART initiatives such as the agency’s rail-car replacement program and its Clipper card implementation plans.
BART board President Bob Franklin said that he was told by the agency’s management — led by new chief Grace Crunican — that the decision to reassign Johnson was mutual.
“No one is perfect, and everyone has made mistakes,” Franklin said. “I don’t think that Linton is being punished for how things went.”
However, Johnson, who found out about his reassignment Monday morning, did not seem happy with his new role.
“They’re telling me that I no longer speak for the district,” Johnson said. “If you want answers, you’ll have to go to the communications department that I built.”
Johnson, a former television reporter, joined the agency in 2004 as its chief communications officer.