The Metropolitan Transit System trolley at the Santa Fe Depot in downtown on Oct. 4, 2022.
The Metropolitan Transit System trolley at the Santa Fe Depot in downtown on Oct. 4, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

This isn’t Zachary Schumacher’s first go-around with the Metropolitan Transit System in a retaliation case.

The employment law and consumer protection attorney representing Grecia Figueroa in a bombshell sexual harassment and assault complaint filed last month against County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and MTS also represented a former agency worker several years ago. 

In 2018, Schumacher and another lawyer filed suit on behalf of Ivan Augustino, a former senior application developer in the IT department. Augustino alleged in court that an MTS manager declined to promote a co-worker due to “her age, her marriage and family planning status, and her relationship to an active duty military service member.”

Augustino alleged he spoke up for her and then MTS managers treated him differently from that point forward.

Both lawsuits named Jeffrey Stumbo, the agency’s head of human resources. In Figueroa’s, he’s referenced in the details of her complaint. In Augustino’s, he’s listed as a defendant.

Augustino said he reported an incident of possible discrimination to the agency’s internal auditor, who passed it along to HR. Stumbo, according to court records, then conducted a “sham” investigation and never spoke to Augustino. The other employee who’d been allegedly denied a promotion was “moved to a lonely, quiet corner of the office,” the lawsuit states. 

Augustino said he, too, was denied a promotion after reporting to the internal auditor, and lost 98 hours of personal time off in an attempt to make him miserable. He also alleged his supervisors “subjected [him] to open and unwarranted criticism, harassment, implied threats of termination, and unnecessary reporting requirements that undermined his effectiveness as the senior application developer.” 

One of his supervisors, Augustino said in the complaint, met with a communication coach, and from then on her “statements regarding the incident were canned and scripted, as though she had been coached by human resources to neither admit any wrongdoing nor offer any apologies for her conduct.” 

MTS headquarters at the 12th and Imperial trolley station. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz
MTS headquarters at the 12th and Imperial trolley station. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

It all came to a head when Augustino submitted a resignation letter in 2017. But he also offered to withdraw it, he said, if the agency agreed to stop the retaliatory behavior. Security walked him out of the building two days later. 

After Schumacher and another attorney filed the complaint, Augustino gave an interview in which he suggested he’d been reluctant to get involved. “The last thing that anyone within the IT department wants is to take an issue to HR because once you report it to HR, there is going to be retaliation,” he told 10News. 

In response, MTS said there was no validity to what Augustino had claimed in his lawsuit and filed its own cross-complaint. The agency accused him of taking confidential information on the way out. It also accused him of intentionally downloading a virus onto its computer system to perform malware attacks, which forced the agency to hire an outside contractor to recreate source code and divert other resources to repair the damage and recreate files. 

Augustino denied that. But he also moved to dismiss the case in February 2020, a few weeks before going to trial, after the agency agreed to pay him $200,000 to settle all claims without admitting to wrongdoing. 

Fletcher was chair of the MTS board at the time the Augustino case was settled and present at one meeting in 2019 when the lawsuit was discussed behind closed doors. 

In the more recent case against MTS, Figueroa claimed Stumbo abruptly fired her the same day that Fletcher, then chair of MTS, launched his now-defunct state Senate campaign. She alleged that the agency terminated her employment without warning because she was sexually harassed by Fletcher. Figueroa further stated in court records that she suspected others at MTS knew about her interactions with Fletcher. 

MTS denied that and cited “performance concerns” as the reason for her termination after she filed her lawsuit. 

Agency staff initially vowed to investigate her claims as part of MTS’s overall legal defense. But in a closed session hearing last week, the MTS board decided to hire an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into Figueroa’s allegations.

Jesse Marx

Jesse Marx is Voice of San Diego's associate editor.

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1 Comment

  1. Fletch supposedly offered the woman $650k in hush money not to go public, since his “partner” said it was his problem – where was he getting the money?

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