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San Diego County supervisor hit with sexual harassment suit

Days before the lawsuit dropped, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher dropped his bid for a state Senate seat but called the "interactions" he had with the plaintiff consensual.

SAN DIEGO (CN) — An-ex employee of San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System sued San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher on a raft of sexual harassment-related claims, including sexual assault.   

Grecia Figueroa, formerly a public relations specialist at the transit agency, claims Fletcher began sexually harassing her through Instagram messages and eventually assaulted her, including two times in conference rooms after MTS board meetings. 

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Diego County Superior Court lists MTS as a co-defendant, and Figueroa claims those in charge at the agency knew or should have known about the assaults and harassment but did nothing to prevent it or take immediate action to address it. Fletcher chairs the agency.

According to Figueroa's complaint, Fletcher began “lurking” — not following or commenting, but looking at pictures and videos — on Figueroa’s Instagram account starting in May 2021, two years after Figueroa started working at the transit agency. That “lurking” progressed to Fletcher reacting to Figueroa’s pictures on Instagram with various emojis, then to direct messages with sexually suggestive comments in which Fletcher asked Figueroa to meet him when his wife and family weren’t home.      

Fletcher is married to  former Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez. 

Figueroa says Fletcher messaged her in May 2022 and invited her to have a beer with him at a hotel he was staying at in downtown San Diego while his home was being repaired. Figueroa says she went and Fletcher led her to an emergency stairwell where he tried to kiss her. Figueroa relented and over the course of the next two to three hours Fletcher put his hands on her and kissed her, she says in her lawsuit.  

Figueroa says she felt pressure 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 and to potentially humiliate her publicly if she made him angry” — pressure that included mimicking “his erotic tone” in messages, she says.

In June 2022, Figueroa says Fletcher messaged her while at an MTS board meeting and told her to meet him in a conference room after the meeting, where he grabbed her breasts and put his mouth on hers. She also claims that at other meetings and events she noticed other board members and MTS employees glaring at her, insinuating that they knew about Fletcher’s assault and harassment of her. 

Figueroa claims Fletcher texted her during meetings and press conferences and smiled and smirked at her, asserting “his sexual dominance over Ms. Figueroa” and making her feel stuck in an “emotional prison."   

After another MTS meeting in December 2022, Fletcher led Figueroa to a conference room and pulled off her clothes, exposing her breasts, putting his mouth on her nipple, and shoving his hand back and forth over her vaginal area, Figueroa says in her complaint.  

She says Fletcher also pressured her to delete their direct messages on Instagram.  

In addition to the sexual harassment and assault claims, Figueroa says Fletcher engaged in whistleblower retaliation when she complained about his actions. She says she was fired for no reason the same day Fletcher announced he was running for a seat on the state Senate. 

Figueroa filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment and says she tried to reach out to Fletcher for prelitigation settlement discussions, at which point Fletcher immediately contacted her and her attorney requesting that she not go public with her accusations. Figueroa agreed. Shortly after, she says Fletcher began bullying and threatening her, culminating in a threat to sue her for attempted extortion if she filed her own lawsuit.

Days before Figueroa filed her lawsuit, Fletcher dropped out of the state Senate race to address what he said were mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol abuse.

“A maneuver some might characterize as a PR stunt designed to shift optics from villain to victim in anticipation of a scandal,” Figueroa says in her complaint.

In announcing his withdrawal from the race, Fletcher claimed his encounters with Figueroa were consensual.

“Last year, I made a terrible mistake engaging in consensual interactions with someone outside my marriage,” Fletcher said in a statement. “I made clear it could not continue or advance and desperately hoped I could leave this mistake in my past. However, this individual and an attorney demanded millions of dollars from me and my family with the threat of not only embarrassment but a willingness to lie about the circumstances and nature of the interactions.

“I have not done the things they are alleging, but I did violate the basic trust and loyalty of my marriage and set a terrible example for our children,” Fletcher continued. “Lorena and I have already started to work through this, and that work must continue after I complete treatment for trauma and alcohol abuse. My wife has done nothing but love me completely and without reservation and the blame for allowing myself to be in this situation rests entirely on my shoulders. I will spend my life working to repair the damage done to my family.” 

Figueroa seeks actual, punitive and exemplary damages “in an amount appropriate to punish the defendant (s) and to deter similar conduct in the future.”

Schumacher said in an email the claims in his client's lawsuit speak for themselves — "as do Nathan Fletcher's actions over the past several days," he added.

"Our complaint noted (at paragraphs 56-61) that Nathan Fletcher, Lorena Gonzalez and their attorney, Danielle Moore, threatened to publicly humiliate, defame, and (falsely) accuse my client of "extortion" if we brought our story to light. And in the hours between the time we filed our complaint and the time it was published by the court, Nathan Fletcher, Lorena Gonzalez, and Danielle Moore did just that," Schumacher said. "Their actions were truly shameless and despicable, and they will be addressed appropriately as we litigate our case in civil court."

The transit agency did not return a request for comment by press time.

Categories:Civil Rights, Employment, Government

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