Thursday was a remarkable day in San Diego political and public policy history. The accusations against Nathan Fletcher and the response to them by Fletcher and other political leaders and government officials provoked a frenzy of public statements, announcements and demands.
Let’s run through them.
The biggest: In a closed session hearing Thursday, the board of the Metropolitan Transit System decided to hire a law firm to conduct an independent investigation into a lawsuit filed by a former staffer last week alleging that the agency’s former board chair, Fletcher, sexually harassed and assaulted her and that she was fired over the incidents.
“We will begin the process of selecting outside counsel and beginning the investigation immediately,” Poway Councilman Brian Pepin wrote on Twitter, of what the board decided in its closed meeting. “It is the board’s intent that the findings of the investigation be made public. The board has instructed counsel to reject any request to indemnify or defend Nathan Fletcher.”
Notable absence: The county had no representation at Thursday’s MTS board discussion. Board of Supervisors Chair Nora Vargas, Fletcher’s alternate, was absent from the meeting.
Some want him out, now: Also Thursday, a cascade of elected Democrats, some of whom serve as alternates on the MTS board, took a step not many other elected Democrats have taken yet. They want Fletcher out now, not his announced plan to leave office May 15.
“Supervisor Fletcher should resign from office effective immediately,” San Diego Councilwoman Vivian Moreno wrote on Twitter. Moreno is Mayor Todd Gloria’s alternate. She was in the closed session meeting, in Gloria’s absence.
Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre made the same request.
Carlsbad Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel, though not on the board of MTS, wrote on twitter, “As someone who has dealt with harassment, I’ll always stand with survivors,” and asked for his immediate resignation.
As did County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer. She had earlier said that the office would benefit from a long transition period. But by Thursday night, she issued a statement saying he should leave office immediately.
Labor wants an appointment: Local labor leaders issued their first statement on the Fletcher allegations after the meeting. Brigette Browning of the San Diego and Imperial Labor Council and Carol Kim of the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council said after the fact that they supported the MTS investigation and Fletcher’s resignation announcement last week.
But they also used the statement as an opportunity to demand the other four supervisors appoint a replacement.
“The focus of county government must always be on what’s best for our region’s working families, not what’s best for a political party, and for that reason we urge our county supervisors to reach across the aisle and fill the District 4 seat swiftly,” they wrote.
Post-Fletcher Dominos Begin Falling – Weber and Parent Jump In
That appointment – or special election to fill the seat if there isn’t one – is the first major political decision facing the region in the Fletcher aftermath.
Janessa Goldbeck, a veteran advocate and nonprofit leader, said last week she is seeking that seat. She had already thrown herself into consideration for it in anticipation of Fletcher vacating the seat to run for the state Senate, before his implosion.
Now, Assemblywoman Akilah Weber, a former La Mesa councilwoman, announced Thursday she will run for state Senate in the 39th District. That seat is being vacated now that Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins is termed out.
Just that quickly, La Mesa Councilman Colin Parent, who is also the chief executive officer of Circulate San Diego, announced he would pursue Weber’s vacated assembly seat in the 79th District. He had some high-profile endorsements ready for the announcement.
Embattled National City Manager Steps Aside, For Now
National City’s embattled city manager has left the roost, at least for now.
Jesse Marx writes in a new story that Brad Raulston is on administrative leave following a private review of his performance Tuesday. Raulston has been National City’s highest-ranking official since 2019 and found himself at odds with dozens of city workers and union leaders over low pay and attempts to fill positions with temporary workers.
Mayor Ron Morrison said Raulston stepped aside for “personal reasons,” and blamed labor activists for creating a contentious atmosphere at City Hall. But Raulston’s continued employment as city manager fell center stage during the latest National City mayor’s race.
City Deploys Wash Stations – But Not Restrooms – To Fight Hep A
The city says it’s set up 10 new handwashing stations nearly two months after a county health official ordered the city to deploy more portable restrooms and handwashing stations amid a small spike in hepatitis A cases.
City spokeswoman Nicole Darling wrote in an email that the city is – at least for now – not adding additional restrooms and noted that there are existing restrooms in “key locations identified by the city.”
In a March 30 letter, city Chief Operating Officer Eric Dargan informed county Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten that the city planned to place additional handwashing stations in areas including downtown, City Heights and Mission Valley. Dargan wrote that the locations were selected based on past deployments and “encampment hot spot locations” reported by residents.
As of Wednesday, the county reported that it’s tracked 16 hepatitis A cases in 2023, including 10 in the homeless community.
In an email to Voice, Darling wrote that the city believes the new handwashing stations and inoculations at city shelters can effectively combat continued spread.
“Hand washing stations promote hygiene and sanitation and, combined with ongoing vaccination efforts in city shelters, can help prevent the transmission of hepatitis A,” Darling wrote.
In Other News
- The San Diego Housing Commission approved a proposal to expand transition-age youth shelter and outreach programs to help LGBTQ+ kids. The agency said it also intends to seek feedback from the LGBTQ+ community to address some of the problems that Tianrui Huang wrote about this week.
- Mayor Todd Gloria announced yesterday that the City Council’s housing committee will review City Councilman Stephen Whitburn’s proposed ordinance aiming to crack down on homeless camps next Thursday. He emphasized that the city is also working to identify locations where people living in tents can safely stay and access services.
The Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, MacKenzie Elmer, Lisa Halverstadt and Tianrui Huang. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.