San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

On Sunday, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced he was abandoning his run for state Senate and would be entering a treatment program for post traumatic stress and alcoholism. Late Tuesday, rumors began to spread that a lawsuit had been filed against the Metropolitan Transit System and Fletcher.

By Wednesday morning, he had stepped down from his role as chair of MTS. By the afternoon, two staffers in his District 4 office had resigned. Finally, at 10:31 p.m. Fletcher posted on Twitter than he would resign from his seat on the Board of Supervisors effective at the end of his medical leave. He didn’t specify when that would be.

Here’s what happened: A Metropolitan Transit System employee, who had been fired in February, filed a lawsuit accusing Fletcher of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Read our story about the accusation here.

Grecia Figueroa, a former television journalist and spokeswoman for the agency, alleged that Fletcher, as chairman of MTS, noticed her, pursued her and pressured her into physical encounters that were unwanted. The filing alleges that she feared, if she didn’t match his tone in text messages, he may ruin her career. 

Figueroa also accused MTS of retaliation. She said she was fired on the same day Fletcher announced his now-defunct state Senate campaign after she told him she did not want a romantic relationship. In the lawsuit, she said she tried to engage in settlement discussions with Fletcher but he resorted to threats. 

The response: Fletcher’s attorney, Danielle Hultenius Moore, called the accusations false and said Fletcher didn’t have authority over Figueroa’s employment. Moore further alleged that Figueroa tried to extort her client and said “we … are pursuing our own legal response.”

Fletcher admitted in a statement to what he called a “terrible mistake” but described the relationship as consensual. Regardless, she was an employee of the agency he helped oversee as its board chairman.

“Sexual relationships between a person in a position of power and an employee are unacceptable and unprofessional,” wrote the president of the San Diego City Council, Sean Elo-Rivera. The complaint had mentioned Elo-Rivera as possibly knowing about Fletcher’s pursuit of Figueroa. He denied that.

Roller coaster for supporters: On Sunday, Fletcher announced that he was entering a rehabilitation problem for trauma and alcohol abuse — drawing sympathy and even praise from elected officials and political professionals from around town. But that narrative got a lot messier Tuesday night as rumors about the lawsuit began to spread. 

Fletcher’s statement on resigning: “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.”

Gonzalez pushed him to do it: “I love my husband. 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. I’m relieved he is finally getting treatment he needs,” she wrote.

His office was falling apart: Two policy advisors in Fletcher’s District 4 office resigned Wednesday. In an email to colleagues Emily Wier, director of policy, wrote “It has been a pleasure to work with you, making substantive changes that make our San Diego County a better place for all.” Dr. Eric Rafla-Yuan, senior policy advisor, also quit.

County manager to stay a bit longer: Helen Robbins-Meyer, the chief administration officer, who oversees 18,000 county employees, had been scheduled to retire this Friday. The board has asked her to stay on a little longer, she said in an email to staff.

Now, the big questions: Why did MTS managers fire Figueroa? With Fletcher’s career over, two main questions remain. Did he assault this woman on MTS property as alleged? And why did MTS fire her? Even after Fletcher’s resignation, the answers to those questions could represent a massive, ongoing scandal for the agency.

Read the story about the accusation here.

Court Fees Going Up Despite State Law Intended to Ease Burden on Defendants

Richard Aguirre at his home in Lemon Grove on March 16, 2023.
Richard Aguirre at his home in Lemon Grove on March 16, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Richard Aguirre was trying to make good on his debt to society when his monthly restitution payments spiked without warning last summer. He petitioned a court to intervene, and a judge in December agreed that the new amount he owed was excessive under the U.S. Constitution.

Turns out Aguirre is one of the fortunate ones. As Voice contributor James Stout reports, thousands of people in San Diego are now paying a higher fee on the money they owe victims in criminal cases.

The source of the contention is a state law intended to do the opposite — decrease the financial burden on criminal defendants — but San Diego County says it has no other choice. A spokesman pointed to a provision in the law allowing courts to award 10 percent interest annually on victim restitution. 

Read the full story here. 

The Learning Curve: Guiding Students Toward Citizenship

Teacher Mechelle Perrot demonstrates an exercise with a student in her citizenship class on March 20, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Many college students enroll in a class to fulfill a prerequisite, or check off a major requirement. But for those enrolled in one San Diego College of Continuing Education class, the outcome is potentially even more consequential than graduation – becoming United States citizens.

Each year, hundreds enroll in free citizenship classes offered by the College of Continuing Education. In the latest installment of The Learning Curve newsletter, education reporter Jakob McWhinney gives a glimpse into those classes. The classes help students develop their English skills and teach them what they need to know about America’s government and history to pass their citizenship test. Instructors also guide students through completing their applications. 

We included a short quiz in the post, so you can test your own knowledge. 

Read the Learning Curve here. 

In Other News

  • San Diego city crews embarked on a homeless encampment sweep of downtown that coincided with the Padres opening day. Officials said it was meant to address safety concerns. (Fox 5)
  • The Encinitas City Council is considering a proposal that would require visitors to purchase a parking permit to park in a neighborhood. (CBS 8)
  • More than $37 million has been allocated to SANDAG by the California Department of Transportation to continue stabilizing the Del Mar bluffs on which the railroad tracks sit. (Union Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx and Jakob McWhinney. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. 

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