The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday calling for the immediate resignation of Supervisor Nathan Fletcher rather than waiting for his planned May 15 departure date.
Fletcher announced his resignation on March 29 after admitting to an affair with a Metropolitan Transit System employee who is suing him for alleged sexual assault and harassment. He has denied the allegations.
Chairwoman Nora Vargas introduced a non-binding resolution of no confidence in Fletcher for Tuesday's special meeting and requested that Fletcher immediately resign. The board approved the resolution on a 4-0 vote.
"My priority is ensuring that we are able to serve the people of San Diego,'' Vargas said before Tuesday's vote, adding that Fletcher has been absent for the past two weeks. "We encourage him to resign immediately so he (can) focus solely on his treatment, and the people of San Diego can move forward with the representation they deserve.''
According to a county attorney, the board has no authority to remove Fletcher from office, and it would be up to Fletcher to decide when his resignation will take effect.
Fletcher was one of the most powerful politicians in the county when he announced on March 26 that he was entering a treatment center outside the state for post-traumatic stress, trauma, and alcohol abuse and was abandoning a plan to run for state Senate. It was unclear Tuesday whether Fletcher was aware of the board's decision.
According to a statement from his office, "Fletcher is unable to respond due to the fact he is in treatment.''On March 29, he announced his resignation from the Board of Supervisors, effective at 5 p.m. May 15, saying he would complete his treatment program before leaving the board. His announcement followed a tumultuous day in which he admitted to the extramarital affair.
Supervisor Jim Desmond, one of Fletcher's most vocal opponents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, called it unacceptable that Fletcher would stay on the board and collect $25,000 from taxpayers during his quasi-resigned period through May 15.
"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,'' Desmond said Sunday. "Mr. Fletcher has let his constituents down and should no longer receive taxpayer funds. "Also, given these circumstances, the search for a new chief administrative officer should be restarted without input from Mr. Fletcher,'' he said. "This is an important decision for the future of San Diego County, and he should not have any input in future decision-making.''
The plaintiff in the lawsuit against Fletcher, former MTS Public Information Officer Grecia Figueroa alleges that Fletcher groped her on two occasions and pursued a sexual relationship with her for months before she was abruptly fired on the day Fletcher announced his state Senate candidacy.
Fletcher resigned on April 4 as MTS chair.
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 last week 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.
Fletcher denied Figueroa's charges, claiming the affair was consensual. 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 added. Fletcher's wife, former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, posted earlier on Twitter that she asked her husband to resign "to lessen the strain on our family, I'm relieved he is finally getting the treatment he needs. Thank you to Everyone who has reached out today,'' Gonzalez posted on Twitter.
At Tuesday's board meeting, Desmond said every county employee undergoes sexual harassment training, and getting physically involved with a subordinate is not allowed. Fletcher was in a position of power at MTS, and if a county employee acted in a similar manner, that person would be removed, Desmond added. Desmond said Figueroa is a victim and should have support from the community.
Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer thanked residents for speaking out, noting that the public sentiment regarding Fletcher spans the political spectrum. Lawson-Remer said she was incredibly sad, disappointed, frustrated, and angry at the situation the board finds itself in and that "my former colleague betrayed that public trust and acted in a way that is just
"We need to get back to the business of serving our community'' and tackle the major issues, including homelessness and climate change, Lawson- Remer said. "We can't address that when we're stuck dealing with a crisis that we did not create.'' Supervisor Joel Anderson said there has been "much misinformation'' in terms of how the county will move forward. "I've always been concerned when an elected official vacates their office without representation,'' he said.
Anderson noted that when he was in the state Senate, three Senators ended up going to jail, and one district was without representation for nine months. He also agreed with Desmond about handling the CAO replacement without Fletcher's input. "We have to be above reproach in our choice of CAO,'' Anderson said. Anderson said there are a number of cities in District 4, and only a few elected officials from those cities have publicly commented on Fletcher.
While people have the right to be angry and lash out, only District 4 residents can remove Fletcher or vote for a new supervisor, Anderson said. During an at-times emotional public comment period that lasted a little over an hour, almost every speaker demanded that Fletcher resign immediately not only for his personal behavior but also for policies he
advocated that critics say harm the county.
A few suggested the board appoint Fletcher's November 2022 election opponent Amy Reichert to replace him, while others said an election was the best route. The board on May 2 is expected to discuss its options for replacing Fletcher. Supervisors could call a special election or appoint a replacement to serve out the remaining three and a half years of Fletcher's term.
Sarah Rogers, a retired Naval officer, and psychologist, told the board that it was no insignificant thing to be treated for combat-related PTSD. But she said the county shouldn't have to pay for Fletcher's care outside of San Diego, as there are great facilities here, including the Veterans Administration. District 4 resident Lee Rogers thanked Desmond for being the first supervisor to demand Fletcher resign, adding that it was important for supervisors to pass the resolution unanimously, "because we do need to move on.''
Eric Weber, an attorney, and coach, said that if Fletcher "cares about veterans, he should resign yesterday — now.'' "His lust for power and wealth has destroyed this county,'' Weber said. "He has no honor.'' A female Air Force veteran who resides in District 4 told supervisors she has never met Fletcher but feels she knows him based on a traumatic experience.
She said that in 2002, she was groped and harassed on a daily basis by a sergeant during her military deployment. He stopped but then placed her in a position doing menial work. Politicians may bring up their military service and clout, but
"sometimes dirtbags somehow make it,'' the woman said. "Our tax dollars should not be spent protecting an abuser.''