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Linton Johnson Scandal: Emails Reveal BART Spokesman Planted Scripted Supporters At News Conference

Bart Protests

First Posted: 09/14/11 09:25 PM ET Updated: 11/14/11 05:12 AM ET

The activity surrounding the recent string of BART protests just got a whole lot messier.

According to an August 11 email from BART spokesman Linton Johnson to Gina DeLorenzo, a member of BART's marketing department, Johnson devised a strategy to plant "loyal riders" at a news conference vocalizing opposition against protesters.

The Bay Citizen obtained several emails through a public records request and reported the story, publishing the incriminating email in full. The Bay Citizen also found that Johnson's superior, Jennifer Barton, approved the plan.

Within the email, Johnson included the following script for participants to read at the news conference:

“My name is __________. I take BART from _______(eg, Hayward) to downtown San Francisco. I depend on BART to get me to my destination safely and on-time. Whatever your message is, it is completely lost on me because you’re putting my life at risk. Furthermore you’re making me late. That’s preventing me from being able to (explain hardship such as pick up my children from child care, which means I have to pay an extra __________, or miss my doctors appointment, which means I will be sick for xxx time or miss my job interview, xxx). We riders demand an immediate end to these illegal acts that make us late and put our lives at risk!”

The email also suggested that DeLorenzo coach participants before the conference, and create press releases for the media, complete with names of participants and a headline that would read: "BART Riders Speak Out Against Illegal Protests Designed To Disrupt Service."

BART followed through with the plan and, at Johnson's suggestion, hired two SUVs to take riders to and from the news conference. However, only one "loyal rider" showed up. He also took his own transportation, leaving BART with $872 bill for unused SUVs.

After the email was publicly revealed on Tuesday, BART Board President Bob Franklin denounced Johnson's plan, calling it inappropriate and unnecessary, according to SFGate. "It was inappropriate for him, or anyone, to provide talking points to passengers," Franklin said. "It wasn't genuine, and there was no need for it. BART doesn't have to do that."

With a dwindling turnout at the last protest, it seems that Franklin is right. But unfortunately for BART, the newly revealed plan might be enough to spark protests all over again. (At least if we learned anything from Johnson's other plan to disrupt cell phone service to prevent protesting.)

Johnson has been out of the office on personal leave since August 22, but, according to The Bay Citizen, will be returning on September 19. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.

At the time of print, Anonymous (the Internet hacker group responsible for much of the protesting) had not yet responded to new reports, but the group has already ruthlessly targeted Johnson for previous alleged transgretions.

Based on Anonymous' past actions, we have a feeling a few naked pictures might be the least of BART's problems.

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Filed by Robin Wilkey  |