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Charges possible for school board leader accused of threatening lawmaker she would 'break her face'

Beatriz LeBron, vice president of the Rochester City Board of Education, is shown on the left, with Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons, vice president of the Monroe County Legislature, on the right
Provided photos
Beatriz LeBron, vice president of the Rochester City Board of Education (left), and Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons, vice president of the Monroe County Legislature

The vice president of the Rochester school board is under criminal investigation for allegedly threatening the vice president of the Monroe County Legislature.

Beatriz LeBron is accused of calling out to Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons in Spanish during a Legislature meeting on April 9, saying she would “break her face” and repeatedly using an expletive to describe the lawmaker.

A Monroe County Sheriff’s office spokesperson confirmed the agency had received the harassment complaint, and that an investigation is ongoing to determine whether charges should be filed.

LeBron was at the Legislature meeting to advocate for the Neighborhood Collaborative Project (NCP). The beleaguered initiative has been in limbo since February when the county cut ties with its administrator, Community Resource Collaborative. The county revoked its contract with CRC after learning that organizations in the NCP had stopped receiving monthly reimbursements. It also froze funding for the organizations.

LeBron is executive director of the Father Tracy Advocacy Center, one of the NCP organizations.

In her remarks to the Legislature, LeBron expressed concern over “misinformation” being spread by some legislators. She made the alleged remarks to Vazquez-Simmons after leaving the podium.

Vazquez-Simmons told WXXI News on Tuesday that she had filed a complaint against LeBron. She also called out LeBron’s actions during a Legislature committee meeting that evening.

“In the past six months, I’ve been subjected to violence, threats, both verbal and physical, I’ve been harassed in this very chamber,” Vazquez-Simmons said. “And to extort me with efforts to influence my vote as well. You all witnessed it in this very room.”

Vazquez-Simmons, D-Rochester, was appointed vice president of the Legislature in January.

The county administration had picked Starbridge Services to administer the Neighborhood Collaborative Project, but a Legislature committee voted down the contract leaving the groups involved in limbo.

She and Democratic Legislator Rachel Barnhart joined with Republicans on Tuesday to vote down legislation to hire a replacement administrator for the NCP. She did not respond to a request for further comment on Wednesday.

In a phone interview, LeBron said she did call Vazquez-Simmons an expletive but denied making any threat against her.

“I did absolutely call her a ******, and I said it loud, but I didn’t say it on record,” LeBron said.

LeBron first learned of the Sheriff’s Office investigation during that interview. She said she planned to file a complaint against Vazquez-Simmons in response claiming she made a false accusation. Both spoke of an ongoing feud between them. LeBron claims Vazquez-Simmons has allowed that to influence her vote on the NCP administrator contract.

“There can be an investigation, there are over 300 witnesses,” LeBron said.

Video from the meeting shows LeBron gesturing with her hand and walking back to her seat, but the microphones in the chamber didn’t capture any sound. A sheriff’s deputy is walking behind her.

Monroe County Legislature Republicans elected Legislator Steve Brew to serve as their new majority leader. They announced his selection on Monday.
Monroe County Legislature Republican Minority Leader, Steve Brew.

LeBron said her main concern is the future of the Father Tracy Advocacy Center after the committee voted down the contract for a new NCP administrator Tuesday. Having a new administrator in place would mean money could again start flowing again to the NCP agencies. She said she would step aside if it meant the organization could move forward.

“This is personal to me,” LeBron said. “I don’t want the agency and these people impacted because of me.”

During the Tuesday meeting of the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee, Republican Minority Leader Steve Brew also expressed concern over LeBron’s behavior and cited it as one of the reasons he was voting “no,” saying in part: “We will not be intimidated, not today, or any day.”

In a statement, Majority Leader Michael Yudelson lambasted Vazquez-Simmons and Barnhart for allowing personal grievances to get in the way of approving the contract.

“Bringing resources to our community is not just about the act of providing assistance — it's about the impact the opportunities have on people's lives,” Yudelson said. “Denying our constituents this chance because of a personal agenda is completely unfair to the agencies involved and exacerbates the plight of those already struggling.”

Gino Fanelli is an investigative reporter who also covers City Hall. He joined the staff in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.