County Prepares for Quiet Transition as Nathan Fletcher Leaves Office Monday

San Diego County staff are preparing for a quiet transition when Nathan Fletcher resigns Monday, after the turbulent period since he first took medical leave seven weeks ago amid sexual misconduct allegations.

Fletcher ended his campaign for state Senate in late March and announced he would seek treatment for post-traumatic stress and alcohol abuse. Days later, he announced he was stepping down from the board of Metropolitan Transit System and then from the Board of Supervisors, after a former MTS employee sued him and the transit agency for alleged sexual harassment and assault.

Fletcher’s sudden downfall from what had seemed an ascendant career created chaos as the four other county supervisors debated how to conduct business and how to fill his seat. Earlier this month, they voted to hold a special election in August, with a runoff to follow in November if no candidate wins a majority.

Despite the uncertainty over the district’s representation, officials expect the transition Monday to be uneventful.

Fletcher’s resignation will take effect at 5 p.m. Monday, and no additional steps are needed to finalize it, county spokesperson Mike Workman said. Although county counsel told board members Fletcher could in theory revoke his notice of resignation and reclaim his seat before then, staff have no indication that he will and don’t expect him to appear in person Monday.

His office has provided constituent services during his absence, and once his resignation is final, District 4 staff will continue that work, reporting directly to the county’s Chief Administrative Office.

The county has spent $1.9 million on security for Fletcher since an apparent arson incident at his home early last year, but his security coverage ended March 26 when he announced his medical leave. His pay and benefits as a supervisor continue through Monday, amounting to $39,168 since he went on leave.

Following the sexual misconduct accusations against Fletcher at MTS, Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said any complaints at the county would be investigated.

Helen Robbins-Meyer, the county’s chief administrative officer, sent an email to all staff last month detailing the county’s policy on sexual harassment and urging them to report any complaints.

“Most of you are aware of recent events that have put the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace back in the spotlight,” she wrote. “I want all employees to hear from me directly, in no uncertain terms: We have no tolerance for sexual harassment here. Zero.”

Robbins-Meyer directed managers to reinforce the message “until it reaches every single employee.” She noted that people who have been targets of abuse are often hesitant to speak up and asked anyone who has experienced or witnessed harassment to report it to a supervisor, manager, department head or human resources or by calling the county ethics hotline at (866) 549-0004.

MTS, which is also a defendant in the sexual misconduct suit against Fletcher, has commissioned an outside law firm to investigate the complaint against him.

But the county was not named as a defendant in that lawsuit and has not conducted any investigations related to Fletcher, Workman said last week.

Click here to read the full article in the SD Union Tribune

Former MTS Employee Allegedly Assaulted by Nathan Fletcher Speaks Out

The former Metropolitan Transit System employee who accused Supervisor Nathan Fletcher of sexual assault has spoken out for the first time since her allegations were made public in a lawsuit filing late last month.

Grecia Figueroa, who worked as a public relations specialist for the transportation agency until earlier this year, expressed frustration for how she has been treated since coming forward with her allegations in a blog post published on Saturday.

“It’s no wonder people feel they’ll be judged when speaking up about sexual harassment, if seeking vindication of one’s own rights leads them to be called a liar, a mistress, a gold digger, and far worse names,” Figueroa wrote.

She did not directly address Fletcher or the lawsuit in the post.Timeline: Unfolding of the Nathan Fletcher scandal

In her statement, she instead lamented about how the hostility directed to her exemplifies the kinds of responses that often keep people quiet about sexual harassment.

Formal action is infrequently taken after individuals experience harassment: according to estimates from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, roughly three out of four people do not report harassing conduct to superiors.

“It’s no wonder women feel threatened to come forward,” Figueroa said of these statistics. “Because even other women will label the situation a ‘salacious scandal’ before a single piece of evidence has hit the courtroom.”

“Choosing to come forward is not an easy feat, and it should be respected,” she continued.

The full statement from Figueroa can be found here.

Figueroa’s lawsuit was first made public on Mar. 29, several days after Fletcher had announced that he would be suspending his State Senate campaign to enter in-patient treatment for alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress.

The nearly 30-page complaint detailed at least two alleged instances of sexual assault by the Supervisor in his role as chairman of the MTS Board of Directors. MTS was also named as a defendant in the case.

Less than one day after the complaint was made public, FOX 5 learned of similar claims from a 27-year-old woman, who said that Fletcher harassed her in 2015 while she was an intern at his non-profit for veterans.

Fletcher’s representatives have denied the allegations of sexual misconduct from both the women.San Diego councilmember seeks Fletcher’s District Four seat

Fletcher did, however, admit to engaging in encounters with Figueroa in a statement released on Mar. 29 that announced her lawsuit filing, arguing that the interactions were consensual.

Click here to read the full article in FoxNews5

Nathan Fletcher Announced a Big Merger of His Nonprofit Focused on Veterans. The Merger Never Happened.

The current county supervisor founded the Three Wise Men Foundation in 2014.

As Supervisor Nathan Fletcher faces growing calls to resign immediately over allegations of sexual harassment and assault in a civil lawsuit, there are questions about what happened to a nonprofit he founded nearly ten years ago.

Fletcher is a veteran, and over the years, has supported numerous military causes.

After he served in the Assembly and ran for mayor of San Diego twice, he founded a nonprofit called Three Wise Men Foundation in 2014.

A few years after that, he made a big announcement—his organization was merging with The Headstrong Project, based on the East Coast. Headstrong is a nonprofit mental health organization that is focused on helping veterans, service members and families.

In an announcement online dated Mar. 10, 2017, Fletcher wrote, “By combining forces and merging our operations with Headstrong, we can have a much stronger impact and serve more veterans.”

At the time, both Fletcher and Headstrong celebrated the merger.

“Together we’ll join forces to provide care for even more post-9/11 vets,” The Headstrong Project posted on its Twitter account.

Team 10 discovered the merger never happened.

Two people currently involved with Headstrong confirmed via email and over the phone that Fletcher’s organization did not join with Headstrong.

They did not want to be named, but one person emailed Team 10 a statement that said, “Mr. Fletcher served on the board for a very short time and left the board over six years ago. His organization dissolved and never merged with The Headstrong Project. He has no affiliation with The Headstrong Project and we’ve been out of touch since his departure.”

In a separate emailed statement, another person involved with Headstrong said, “Mr. Fletcher left the board several years ago and has no affiliation with The Headstrong Project.”

According to IRS records, Nathan Fletcher—his name spelled as “Natan Fletcher”—was listed as a director for Headstrong in 2017. He is not listed in IRS records after that.

Fletcher’s biography at UC San Diego, where he taught for years as a professor, is still active. “He remains active with many veterans organizations including serving on the board of the Headstrong Project,” the biography stated as of Apr. 19.

His campaign website has been taken down, but an internet archive search showed that as of June 2020, his website also listed him as a Headstrong board member. A person currently working at Headstrong told Team 10 he was not affiliated with the organization at that time.

Team 10 also spoke to someone who served on the board of Three Wise Men. The individual said they do not know why the merger never happened.

When asked why the merger fell through, the source at Headstrong said the person to ask would be Fletcher.

A spokesperson for Supervisor Nathan Fletcher’s office told Team 10 that Fletcher “is unable to respond due to the fact he is in treatment.”

Click here to read the full article at ABC News 10

Board of Supervisors to Vote on Resolution Calling for Nathan Fletcher’s Immediate Resignation

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors will be holding an emergency meeting on Tuesday to vote on a resolution of no confidence for Nathan Fletcher and to call on him to resign immediately, Supervisor Jim Desmond’s office said in a statement Sunday night.

Fletcher, who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment in a lawsuit by a former Metropolitan Transit System employee, announced his resignation late last month and that would be effective at the end of his medical leave on May 15.

The vote of no confidence resolution would be a symbolic measure to pressure the Supervisor to step down as soon as possible, according to Desmond’s office.Lawsuit against Supervisor Fletcher alleges sexual assault

“While the Board of Supervisors does not have the ultimate power to remove Mr. Fletcher, this resolution will serve as a powerful statement for him to resign,” the statement from the District 5 representative said. “Mr. Fletcher has let his constituents down and should no longer receive taxpayer funds.”

Desmond cited the need for Fletcher’s seat to be filled to move forward with the hiring of a new Chief Administrative Officer for the county.

The former CAO was set to retire at the end of March, but was brought back temporarily amidst the allegations surfacing.

If Fletcher were to step down following the vote, the vacancy in the fourth district supervisorial seat could either be filled by a Board of Supervisors appointment or through a special election, according to the county charter. The body would have 30 days to pursue either option.

According to a statement from Chairwoman Nora Vargas, the Board of Supervisors will also be meeting on May 2 to discuss the options for the board moving forward.

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Numerous local officials have voiced support for the Supervisor’s decision to step down, expressing disappointment in Fletcher for the alleged behavior detailed in the lawsuit filing.

In a signed letter to the board, Vargas requested the vote on the resolution, citing that — “by his own statements” — Fletcher had not “upheld the principles of integrity expected in his position.”

“It’s clear to me that in order to move forward with the business of this county and to meet the needs of the people we represent, Supervisor Fletcher must resign immediately,” Vargas said in a statement Sunday.

The full letter requesting the vote of no confidence can be viewed here

Fletcher previously acknowledged engaging in “consensual interactions” with the MTS employee, but denied the allegations of sexual misconduct.

This is the latest development in a series of events that began unfolding at the end of last month, when the Supervisor announced that he would be suspending his campaign for the California State Senate to seek treatment for alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress.

The lawsuit against Fletcher and MTS was announced in a statement released by his lawyer on Mar. 29 that refuted the allegations detailed in the complaint.

Click here to read the full article in Fox5

Supervisor to quit San Diego board

He faces sexual misconduct claims and a lawsuit. Agency to weigh its next steps.

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Thursday that he will resign effective May 15, amid sexual misconduct allegations and a civil lawsuit that have thrown into free fall what had just four days earlier seemed a rising political career.

He plans to remain in office but on medical leave until then, he said, after announcing his plans to resign late Wednesday night. He had said March 26 that he was ending a campaign for state Senate to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol abuse.

The Board of Supervisors will decide May 2 whether to appoint a candidate to fill his seat or hold a special election to replace him, county officials said.

Board Chair Nora Vargas did not say which option she will propose for replacing Fletcher, but said she agreed with his decision to resign.

“I’m deeply disturbed by the allegations against Supervisor Fletcher and support his resignation,” Vargas said. “We must work to create a safe environment for all the dedicated people who work throughout San Diego County, and I won’t accept anything less.”

The announcement of his resignation came hours after Fletcher acknowledged inappropriate behavior with Grecia Figueroa, a former Metropolitan Transit System public relations officer who accused Fletcher of kissing and groping her in a lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court.

Fletcher denied the assault and harassment allegations but resigned Tuesday from the MTS board, which oversees the San Diego trolley and bus system and which he had chaired.

“The strain on my wife and family over the past week has been immense and unbearable,” Fletcher wrote in a statement late Wednesday night. “A combination of my personal mistakes plus false accusations has created a burden that my family shouldn’t have to bear.”

Fletcher’s initial announcement Sunday had prompted an outpouring of support on social media from constituents and well-wishers who applauded his decision to seek mental health treatment.

But the mood turned critical Wednesday after he acknowledged his interactions with Figueroa.

Supervisor Jim Desmond, a Republican, posted a statement Thursday saying he was “concerned and disappointed by the disturbing allegations of sexual misconduct” against Fletcher, and calling his resignation “a necessary step for the future of San Diego County.”

Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Terra Lawson-Remer did not comment on the allegations or on Fletcher’s resignation, but said in a statement that the board would continue to operate effectively in his absence.

“I have every confidence in our chairwoman and look forward to working with my colleagues to keep delivering for our region,” Lawson-Remer said.

Republican Supervisor Joel Anderson declined to comment.

At least two staffers in his county office resigned Wednesday as a result of the accusations, even though Fletcher broadly denied the allegations in the lawsuit.

Policy director Emily Wier, who had served with Fletcher since 2019, stepped down, as did senior policy advisor Dr. Eric Rafla-Yuan. Both confirmed their resignations but declined to comment.

In his resignation message, Fletcher thanked his supporters and constituents.

“I am proud of what we accomplished together,” he said. “My decision today is solely based on what is best for my family.”

Fletcher’s wife, former state Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, registered her support for her husband in a social media post late Wednesday night.

“I love my husband,” Gonzalez said on Twitter. “He has acknowledged his mistakes & I believe his name will be cleared of false accusations. Still, I asked him to resign to lessen the strain on our family.”

Former state Assemblymember Lori Saldaña called for the San Diego County Democratic Party to take action, noting that Fletcher is the second high-profile local Democrat accused of sexual misconduct in just the last year.

Former county party Chair Will Rodriguez-Kennedy stepped down from his position in May after being accused of rape. After an investigation, the district attorney declined to file charges.

Saldaña characterized Fletcher’s behavior toward Figueroa as an “abuse of power” because of his position of authority in the organization.

“When you have a powerful person coercing, expecting, demanding, something from a subordinate, it makes it very difficult for that person to consent without some form of pressure being placed on them,” she said.

Under the party’s bylaws and code of conduct, Central Committee members can be removed for causes including unwelcome advances, retaliation or alcohol or substance abuse, among others, Saldaña noted.

She urged acting party Chair Becca Taylor to ask members to vote on whether to remove Fletcher and Rodriguez-Kennedy from their committee positions.

Taylor said in a statement that she supported Fletcher’s resignation from his county office but did not respond to Saldaña’s request.

Figueroa said in her lawsuit that Fletcher first began interacting with her on social media in 2021. Within several months, she said, he began inviting her to private meetings and kissed and groped her against her will.

She said she was fired from her job at MTS on Feb. 6 — the day Fletcher announced his campaign for state Senate — in what she believes was retaliation.

The transit agency said Figueroa’s termination was “solely related to ongoing performance concerns” and said Fletcher had no role in that decision. It said the board has assigned the labor law firm Paul Plevin Quarles to investigate her allegations.

“None of the decision makers involved in this personnel decision were aware of the allegations about Nathan Fletcher until after the decision to terminate,” the transit agency said in a statement.

“Neither Mr. Fletcher nor any other MTS Board Member was aware of or involved in the decision to terminate Ms. Figueroa.”

No sooner had Fletcher announced plans last month to seek termed-out Sen. Toni Atkins’ state Senate seat than he became the immediate favorite in the race.

But his announcement March 26 that he was ending his campaign, followed by his plan to resign as supervisor, leaves wide open the race not only for Atkins’ Senate seat but also one for the 4th Supervisorial District, which he now represents.

The Board of Supervisors must decide whether to appoint a successor, hold a special election or choose a combination of those options. The board has not indicated how it intends to fill the upcoming vacancy.

The cost and timeline for a special election vary depending on the jurisdiction, the number of registered voters and whether it is an all-mail election or would involve in-person voting, among other factors, San Diego County Registrar of Voters spokesperson Antonia Hutzell said Thursday.

Although the registrar does not have a cost estimate for a special election to replace Fletcher, the most recent special election for the 80th Assembly District — to fill the seat vacated by Gonzalez — cost $2.3 million, Hutzell said.

Potential candidates are already throwing their names in the hat for Fletcher’s seat.

Amy Reichert, who lost a challenge to Fletcher in November, is considering a second run.

“I do hope there is a special election,” Reichert said Thursday. “I think the people deserve to vote for their elected representative. I am absolutely interested in running for county Board of Supervisors.”

Veterans advocate Janessa Goldbeck had previously announced plans to run for Fletcher’s open seat should he be elected to the state Senate but said Thursday she’s prepared either to run for the seat or to apply for an appointment now.

“This obviously changes the timeline, but I’m not deterred; I’m doubling down,” Goldbeck said Thursday, calling Fletcher’s behavior “deeply disturbing and disappointing.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Opinion: Why Nathan Fletcher’s Behavior Toward an MTS Employee Makes Him Unfit for San Diego Office

The editorial board operates independently from the U-T newsroom but holds itself to similar ethical standards. We base our editorials and endorsements on reporting, interviews and rigorous debate, and strive for accuracy, fairness and civility in our section. Disagree? Let us know.

Three days, two hours and seven minutes.

That’s how long it took for San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher’s soaring political career to end this week after a series of revelations that included an admission of alcohol abuse and inappropriate behavior and allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault by a former employee of the transit agency whose board Fletcher chaired.

It is a stunning abuse of power and a sudden fall from it for a politician whose name will now be recalled alongside other local rogues forced from office after misconduct — like Duke Cunningham, Duncan D. Hunter and Bob Filner. In two series of Twitter posts, Fletcher bowed out of a fledgling state Senate campaign at 8:24 p.m. on Sunday, and announced plans to step down as a supervisor at 10:31 p.m. on Wednesday.

The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board, which endorsed Fletcher in the 2018 and 2022 general elections and is a devotee of due process, was prepared to call for his resignation before he announced he would step down. Now, the fallout for him could get worse. Thursday, NBC San Diego reported that a former UC San Diego student accused him of improper behavior in 2015 when she was 19 years old and working as an intern for an organization he founded and that Fletcher had denied it then and now.

The legal process may be conclusive, or the public may never know whether 46-year-old Fletcher’s “interactions” with then-public relations specialist Grecia Figueroa, 34, were “consensual,” as Fletcher claims, or “a pattern and practice of sexual harassment” that created “a hostile, offensive, oppressive and intimidating work environment,” as Figueroa’s lawsuit claims. There are other questions. What did Metropolitan Transit System officials know? MTS fired Figueroa. Why? Will other accusations against Fletcher follow? Is this really happening again in San Diego politics?

Fletcher denies allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault and said Figueroa and her attorney “demanded millions of dollars from me and my family with the threat of not only embarrassment but a willingness to lie about the circumstances and nature of the interactions.” Fletcher’s attorney says, “The simple truth is that Ms. Figueroa pursued my client, their interactions were consensual and Mr. Fletcher does not and never had authority over her employment.”

But social media messages documented in Figueroa’s lawsuit paint a picture of the pursuit of a Metropolitan Transit System employee by a person with a vote and a lot of influence over MTS’ $355 million operating budget — and thus over Figueroa’s future. And Figueroa’s lawsuit claims that Fletcher and his wife, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, intended to sue Figueroa and her lawyer for extortion.

The suit alleges that Fletcher twice groped Figueroa in a room adjacent to one where official MTS board business had just concluded. It alleges Fletcher “stalked” and flirted with Figueroa on social media for months, kissed her in May in a hotel stairwell, grabbed her breasts in a conference room adjacent to an MTS Executive Committee meeting in June, and grabbed her breasts and further touched her sexually in the same room in December. And Figueroa says she was fired on Feb. 6 — the same day Fletcher launched his campaign for state Senate — despite good marks at a job where, by her account in the lawsuit, she generally did well on annual performance reviews and “got along well with her colleagues, and took pride knowing that she was a valuable asset to her team.” MTS said Thursday the firing was related to documented performance concerns.

Again, a legal settlement or ruling could tell us more. But what’s clear by Fletcher’s own acknowledgment of a “terrible mistake … with someone outside my marriage” is that this was an absolute abuse of power. It erodes public trust, and the supervisor’s office should be ceded to someone more deserving of it.

This is now a massive scandal for MTS, which must answer questions forthrightly and publicly about why Figueroa was fired and who knew what about Fletcher’s conduct. That should be documented in an independent investigation, perhaps by the district attorney, but not solely in one arranged by MTS, an agency whose conduct is in question.

Until this week, Fletcher was a star in the local Democratic Party, and one of the county’s most recognizable politicians. A distinguished Marine turned Republican state Assembly member, Fletcher sponsored Chelsea’s Law, which toughened penalties and restrictions on violent sexual predators, in 2010. He later quit the GOP to become an independent and then a Democrat while finishing third in consecutive San Diego mayor’s races in 2012 and 2013. His 2018 election to the county Board of Supervisors paved the way for Democratic control of a board that had been a Republican stronghold for decades, and his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic helped the region better manage a complex public health crisis. He won re-election last year by a landslide and he was as clear a favorite in his state Senate campaign as a person can be a year before any vote.

Fletcher stunned the San Diego political establishment on Sunday night in a series of tweets while citing post traumatic stress disorder from military “combat piled on top of intense childhood trauma that’s been exacerbated by alcohol abuse” to say he would drop out of his Senate campaign and check himself into an extended inpatient treatment center. Fletcher did not acknowledge any specific reason for his decision, and a who’s who of San Diego area politicians announced their support for him on Twitter. Meanwhile, Figueroa’s lawsuit said Fletcher’s citation of “post traumatic stress, trauma and alcohol abuse” without any mention of the Figueroa allegations about to drop was “a PR stunt designed to shift optics from villain to victim in anticipation of a scandal.”

On Tuesday, he issued a statement about the lawsuit, denying “the things they are alleging” while acknowledging that he “did violate the basic trust and loyalty of my marriage and set a terrible example for our children.” Fletcher did not directly address his responsibilities as MTS board chair or its role in the scandal.

The first reaction of many people to Fletcher’s stunning announcement Sunday was the humane one. Many San Diegans were thankful that Fletcher was seeking help and in a public way. It seemed in keeping with his commitment since being elected in 2018 to represent central San Diego County’s supervisorial Fourth District to destigmatize mental health care and make it more widely available through county programs.

This reaction was no surprise. Normally, a community that reveres and values its veterans should have empathy for a public figure having a reckoning with the personal impact of serving combat tours in Iraq, the Horn of Africa and the Near East — and from having dealt with a “violent and very chaotic” childhood in a badly broken family.

But then the larger picture emerged — a married politician pursuing an employee of the agency whose budget and work he oversees is a trespass against the employee, the spouse and the public. What happens in their marriage should be between Fletcher and his wife. But that privilege of privacy does not extend to public office. Just Fletcher’s self-admitted actions show he is unfit to serve and was right to resign. The court case and new allegations may prove he is even more unfit.

Two of Fletcher’s aides quit Wednesday in the wake of this week’s revelations. Others may leave, too, and the residents of his supervisorial district deserve to have leadership they can count on, so relying on a short-staffed team of unelected officials for any substantial period is unacceptable. He must go now. We hope his staff serves until the supervisors appoint a successor or call a special election to find someone of better character, quickly and fairly.

All of Figueroa’s allegations are concerning, but those that Fletcher groped her after meetings in MTS buildings are especially troubling in a city where the disgusting memories of former San Diego mayor and serial sexual abuser Bob Filner are not even a decade old.

Fletcher no doubt experienced horrific things in combat and awful childhood traumas. But that doesn’t excuse his abuses of power, and announcing he was stepping back from politics because of his past without fully disclosing his transgressions makes his comments seem more self-serving and political than honest and heartfelt.

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune

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