San Diego County was bracing Thursday for a shakeup in political leadership following Supervisor Nathan Fletcher's abrupt decision to resign his seat when he completes a previously announced medical leave.
Fletcher announced the move late Wednesday night, following a tumultuous day in which he admitted having an affair with a woman who then sued him, alleging he sexually assaulted and harassed her.
In a statement, Fletcher said he was resigning from the Board of Supervisors at the request of his wife, former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, to focus on his mental health.
"The strain on my wife and family over this past week has been immense and unbearable. A combination of my personal mistakes plus false accusations has created a burden that my family shouldn't have to bear. I will be resigning from the Board of Supervisors, effective at the end of my medical leave," Fletcher said.
Gonzalez posted on Twitter that she asked her husband to resign "to lessen the strain on our family."
"I'm relieved he is finally getting treatment he needs. Thank you to everyone who has reached out today," Gonzalez said.
Fletcher will officially resign from his 4th District seat at 5 p.m. May 15, his office announced Thursday.
Fletcher announced on Sunday he was entering a treatment center for post-traumatic stress, trauma and alcohol abuse and forgoing a run for state Senate.
Fletcher said his decision to resign was "solely based on what is best for my family."
"I am grateful to my constituents for the honor of serving you, my incredible team who worked tirelessly to make a real difference, and our county workers who put it all on the line for those most in need everyday. I am proud of what we accomplished together," Fletcher said.
Fletcher, who was also the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Chair, is being sued by a woman who alleges he sexually assaulted and harassed her.
The plaintiff, former MTS public information officer Grecia Figueroa, alleges Fletcher groped her on two occasions and pursued a sexual relationship with her for months, leading to her abrupt firing on the day Fletcher announced his state Senate candidacy.
Fletcher admitted having an affair but denied the allegations of assault and harassment.
He released a statement Wednesday saying he "made a terrible mistake engaging in consensual interactions with someone outside my marriage," who is now seeking "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."
"I have not done the things they are alleging, but I did violate the basic trust and loyalty of my marriage and set a terrible example for our children," Fletcher said.
Figueroa alleges that beginning in 2021, Fletcher began "stalking" her social media account, then sought to meet with her privately on several occasions. On two of those occasions, she claims he assaulted her.
The complaint alleges Figueroa "was intimidated by the dynamic Fletcher had created" and says she "felt pressured to reciprocate Fletcher's advances because she knew he had authority, as both a career-politician and as Chair of the MTS Board, to destroy her career at MTS and to potentially humiliate her publicly if she made him angry."
She alleges that on Feb. 6, she was fired during a closed-door meeting and believes "that MTS terminated her employment because she was sexually harassed by Defendant Fletcher."
The lawsuit filed late Tuesday in San Diego Superior Court alleges sexual assault and battery and sexual harassment by Fletcher. It also names the MTS as a defendant and alleges sexual harassment, failure to prevent sexual harassment and retaliation, and whistleblower retaliation.
MTS General Counsel Karen Landers said in a statement that Fletcher resigned from his position as board chair Tuesday night and that San Diego City Councilman Stephen Whitburn will assume the position in the interim.
"MTS is aware of the lawsuit from a former MTS employee and has engaged an outside law firm to conduct an investigation. MTS does not comment on pending litigation," the statement read.
Fletcher's attorney, Danielle Hultenius Moore, said the woman's allegations "are false and are designed to drive headlines and not tell the truth."
The attorney said the woman pursued Fletcher, who "does not and never had authority over her employment."
"We will aggressively fight this issue in court and the full record will show the truth," Moore said.
On Sunday, Fletcher announced that he would forgo his state Senate run to deal with post-traumatic stress he attributed to his time in combat with the Marine Corps. He also said he was suffering from childhood trauma, which had been made worse by issues with alcohol.
Fletcher said he was seeking treatment at the recommendation of his therapist and the insistence of his wife.
In his response to the lawsuit's allegations, Fletcher said, "Lorena and I have already started to work through this, and that work must continue after I complete treatment for trauma and alcohol abuse. My wife has done nothing but love me completely and without reservation and the blame for allowing myself to be in this situation rests entirely on my shoulders. I will spend my life working to repair the damage done to my family."
In a statement via Twitter Thursday, county board Chairwoman Nora Vargas wrote that she was "deeply disturbed" by the allegations against Fletcher and supported his resignation.
"We must work to create a safe environment for all the dedicated people who work in San Diego County, and I won't accept anything less," Vargas stated.
Supervisor Jim Desmond wrote that Fletcher's resignation "was a necessary step for the future of San Diego County." Desmond also wrote that he was "concerned and disappointed by the disturbing allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Fletcher."
"It takes immense courage for individuals to come forward with such allegations, and we must create a safe and supportive environment for victims to share their stories," Desmond added.
Desmond tweeted that it's "crucial to allow the legal process to take its course, and for all parties to be heard."
"As elected officials, we hold a position of great responsibility and trust and must be held to a higher standard of conduct," Desmond wrote.