Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 5:10 p.m. Wednesday to include details from the lawsuit filed by the former employee, after FOX 5 obtained a copy of the complaint. An additional update was made at 4:45 p.m. Thursday following the release of a second statement from MTS, addressing Figueroa’s termination.
SAN DIEGO — San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher is facing a lawsuit over allegations of sexual assault and battery from a claimed extramarital affair that he engaged in with a subordinate who worked for the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.
Fletcher announced the potential lawsuit in a statement Wednesday, saying that he had consensual interactions with a former employee of MTS and that individual had filed a lawsuit for several million dollars against him and his wife, former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.
The complaint, however, details two alleged instances of sexual assault by the County Supervisor in his role as chairman of the agency’s board.
MTS was also named as a defendant in the complaint. Gonzalez, on the other hand, is not a named party.
Fletcher’s attorney, Danielle Hultenius Moore, said in a statement released early Wednesday that the allegations in the lawsuit were false, claiming that the woman had pursued her client.
“…Their interactions were consensual and Mr. Fletcher does not and never had authority over her employment. We will aggressively fight this issue in court and the full record will show the truth,” Moore said in the statement.
The employee, Grecia Figueroa, had started with the agency in 2019. She most recently worked as a public relations specialist until earlier this year, when she was allegedly fired abruptly on Feb. 6 – the same day that Fletcher announced his campaign for the California State Senate.
The complaint said that, while Figueroa was with MTS, she would frequently attend events where Fletcher was present, but had very little direct contact with him in the scope of her work and he was not her direct superior.
Fletcher allegedly instigated contact with the employee over social media in early 2021, starting as a repeated viewing of the employee’s posts before escalating to direct messages towards the end of the year.
That flirtatious contact via direct message continued into 2022, according to the complaint. The document stated that the employee was fearful of losing her job and “felt obliged to entertain the Chairman of the MTS Board… Thus, she responded in kind to most of Fletcher’s messages.”
In May 2022, the social media messages reportedly evolved into direct solicitations from the Supervisor to her for meetings outside of work, insisting that they could “keep it very ‘discreet.’”
This led to the first alleged physical encounter named in the complaint between Fletcher and the employee, after asking her to visit him for a drink at the hotel he was staying at with his family. Gonzalez was apparently out of town at the time.
She came to the hotel and met with the Supervisor in the stairwell, where he was described as attempting several advances before kissing the employee.
Several weeks later, in early June, the employee alleges that Fletcher initiated physical intimacy again in a conference room after an MTS Executive Committee meeting. The complaint said he kissed her again and grabbed her over her shirt. Afterwards, she “pushed him back.”
Messages reportedly continued following that incident. In an Oct. 5 phone call to Fletcher mentioned in the document, the employee had allegedly voiced concern about being “dragged into some kind of scandal,” and asked if they could return to a “strictly professional relationship.”
But, according to the complaint, another incident of alleged sexual assault occurred a few months later on Dec. 1 — also after an MTS meeting — when the Supervisor reportedly pulled off some of the employee’s clothes and engaged her in more aggressive sexual behavior.
Flirtatious messages from Fletcher continued into 2023, according to the complaint, before ending on Jan. 26. The employee was apparently fired from MTS a little over a week later.
It is unknown if there were any additional instances of physical intimacy, outside of those detailed in the court filing.
Fletcher and the employee were apparently attempting to settle the matter outside of court proceedings, however, discussions fell apart on Sunday of this week.
Hours later, the complaint alleges, Fletcher announced that he would be suspending his campaign for higher office to seek treatment for substance abuse and post-traumatic stress.
Fletcher has not denied engaging in a sexual relationship with the employee, but refutes the sexual assault allegations. In his statement, the politician admitted he made a “terrible mistake” and violated the trust and loyalty of his marriage.
His full comments on the matter can be found here.
In a statement to FOX 5, MTS said that they were aware of the lawsuit and have brought on an outside law firm to conduct an investigation.
They said that Fletcher has resigned from his position as Board Chair and San Diego City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn will assume the role in the interim.
The transportation agency, in an additional statement Thursday, said that the filing of the lawsuit was the first time that executive management were made aware of the details of the allegations against Fletcher.
Regarding Figueroa’s termination, MTS said in Thursday’s statement that the decision was based on “ongoing performance concerns” following normal procedures and that none of the individuals involved in the decision to terminate her employment were aware of the allegations until after the decision was made.
Fletcher and other board members were not involved in the decision, MTS said.
A handful of local leaders have since condemned the alleged behavior of Fletcher described in the lawsuit filing, including San Diego City Council President and member of the MTS board, Sean Elo-Rivera.
“I am alarmed by the allegations against Mr. Fletcher and am very disappointed to learn there was inappropriate conduct,” Elo-Rivera said. “Sexual relationships between a person in a position of power and an employee are unacceptable and unprofessional.”
County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas would not comment directly on the allegations against the former chair, instead stating that she is focused on “ensuring the everyday work of the people of San Diego County moves forward.”
FOX 5’s Amber Coakley contributed to this report.