County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher’s birthday is Dec. 31. On New Years Day, 2017, he and then Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez got married. That made the holiday into a big thing for them every year and every year they were very public about it.
On Dec. 31, 2022, Gonzalez posted a birthday message for Fletcher on Twitter.
“Happy Birthday to the love of my life – the most adventurous, brave, smartest, handsome, loving man I’ve ever known. Thank you for being such a devoted father & husband AND still finding the time to save the world (or at least the county!),” she wrote.
The next day Fletcher reciprocated, on Instagram. “I’ve been told you should marry your best friend. I got that and everything else you could dream of in a wife—love, passion, adventure!” he wrote.
But the public had not yet seen what Instagram had become for Fletcher – a platform for duplicity.
It turns out that, on Dec. 31, 2022, at 6 p.m. 12 hours after Gonzalez sent her birthday message, Fletcher sent an employee of the Metropolitan Transit System, Grecia Figueroa, an Instagram message “Happy new year mi armor (sic). Here is to a 2023 where all are (sic) desires come true.”
It was one of the many, and surprisingly gauche, messages Figueroa released that she and her lawyer say created a hostile work environment for her and, worse, led to sexual assaults and harassment and eventually her firing from MTS. Fletcher was the chairman of MTS, the leader of the board of directors that oversee MTS staff.
He and his lawyer claim his “interactions” with Figueroa were consensual and that she later tried to extort him. But he didn’t dispute anything specific about what she said, and the plain admitted facts – that he had what she says were non-consensual interactions with someone over whom he had power and authority – were enough to first cause him to resign from MTS’ board and then, quite soon, from his role as county supervisor.
His carefully crafted career in politics is over. Only a few questions remain for him: Will he face criminal charges or more accusations? Will his marriage survive? Will he really remain on county payroll through mid-May?
These are important questions for him, but the scandal has quickly engulfed dozens of other people around him.
The biggest of those scandals, in the public’s interest, is now at MTS.
Facing a barrage of inquiries, MTS, which has a $300 million annual budget and 3,000 employees, released a statement claiming that officials fired Figueroa for performance reasons, not because of her interactions with Fletcher.
“The termination of Grecia Figueroa was solely related to ongoing performance concerns and followed MTS’s normal practice of documenting such concerns and attempting to work with the employee towards improvement over a reasonable period of time,” the statement read.
But pointing out concerns about her performance is not the defense they think it is if she was truly being relentlessly pursued and pawed at by the chairman of the board. That sort of thing can have a negative impact on an employee’s performance.
The agency’s statement also claims Fletcher was not aware of the decision to terminate her employment.
“The filing of Ms. Figueroa’s lawsuit on March 28, 2023 was the first time that MTS executive management was provided with the specific details of Ms. Figueroa’s allegations,” the statement read.
But these claims also provoke major questions. MTS says Fletcher was not aware of the decision to terminate Figueroa? Really?
How does MTS know what Fletcher was aware of? People across San Diego are rethinking what they know about him and, without a thorough investigation, none of us can be sure what he may have known.
The statement also says the lawsuit was the first time management “was provided with the specific details” of her accusation. OK, but did managers have non-specific information? Did managers have information about what was going on but not about her allegations about the interactions? Did nobody witness the most powerful politician in San Diego ensconce into a conference room with a mid-level agency employee?
Then the agency claimed to have already started an independent investigation in the matter, but our Andrew Keatts immediately revealed how the investigation was neither independent, nor an investigation. It was simply the law firm the agency always uses for labor law needs and it would not be investigating but actually preparing the agency’s defense – as such the results of its investigation would almost certainly be protected from public scrutiny by attorney-client privilege.
The new chair of the agency, San Diego City Councilman Stephen Whitburn, promised to push for a truly independent investigation Thursday at a closed session of the MTS Board. That would be the only way for the people MTS serves to ensure the agency is not the kind that would tolerate a hostile work environment or sexual harassment let alone retaliate against an employee who is the victim of it.
Fletcher’s actions, even if they are somehow shown to be consensual, have created a hydrogen bomb of a scandal in San Diego public affairs. It will have a blast radius that stretches far and will impact issues on which he worked, other politicians and his family and friends for many years to come.
But no agency is facing the first fires more acutely than MTS and its managers have so far not proven able to handle it.
Who at MTS was interviewed? Is there a vacancy now or on May 15, given there will be no representation ongoing? Who was in the chain of command for her at MTS? What is the performance evaluation process for dealing with employment issues? Is that process appealable? How long was her performance an issue? How was this documented?
I guess I am asking, did you interview anyone? Are you citing policy, guidelines, process? Your entire article says MTS this & that but never states who at MTS substantiated what you are stating. Accountability and transparency would be a bonus at some point.
i think it’s pretty clear that these questions are all speculation on the part of the writer. reasonable questions to be sure, but speculation nonetheless.
This is a great list of questions that VOSD should be working on answering. Instead, the editor seems to be trying to demand that MTS mount an independent third party investigation of itself, which I presume would lead to PRAs by VOSD to get information you can use for more stories about MTS. VOSD prides itself as the regions premier investigative journalism outlet. Time to put your own investigative journalist hats on and start digging up the facts so you can report them without trying to get MTS to do the investigating for you.
To those who are beating a dead horse while the jury is out, make certain there are no hidden ghosts. The unwise American has ruined many men through pompous, frivolous self-importance. My question to most of you saints is why are you beating a man on his knees? ” A man will cut another in half to feel taller” Einstein.
No mercy for bloated egos.
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