SAN DIEGO - County Supervisor and former San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Chair Nathan Fletcher, who recently said he was abandoning a state Senate run in order to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress and alcohol abuse, is being sued by a woman who alleges he sexually assaulted and harassed her.
The woman, who previously worked for the MTS, alleges Fletcher groped her on two occasions and pursued a sexual relationship with her for months, leading to her abrupt firing on the day Fletcher announced his state Senate candidacy.
Fletcher admits having a sexual affair with the woman but denies the allegations of assault and harassment.
He released a statement Wednesday -- three days after announcing he would be checking into a treatment center -- which said he ``made a terrible
mistake engaging in consensual interactions with someone outside my marriage,'' who is now seeking ``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 said.
The woman alleges that beginning in 2021, Fletcher began ``stalking'' her social media account, then sought to meet with her privately on several occasions. On two of those occasions, she claims he assaulted her.
The complaint alleges the woman ``was intimidated by the dynamic Fletcher had created'' and says she ``felt pressured 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 at MTS and to potentially humiliate her publicly if she made him angry.''
She alleges that on Feb. 6, she was fired during a closed-door meeting and believes ``that MTS terminated her employment because she was sexually harassed by Defendant Fletcher.''
The lawsuit filed late Tuesday in San Diego Superior Court alleges sexual assault and battery and sexual harassment by Fletcher. It also names the MTS as a defendant and alleges sexual harassment, failure to prevent sexual harassment and retaliation, and whistleblower retaliation.
MTS General Counsel Karen Landers said in a statement that Fletcher resigned from his position as board chair Tuesday night and that San Diego City Councilman Stephen Whitburn will assume the position in the interim. ``MTS is aware of the lawsuit from a former MTS employee and has engaged an outside law firm to conduct an investigation. MTS does not comment on pending litigation,'' the statement read.
Fletcher's attorney, Danielle Hultenius Moore, said the woman's allegations ``are false and are designed to drive headlines and not tell the truth.''
The attorney said the woman pursued Fletcher, who ``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.
On Sunday, Fletcher announced that he would forgo his state Senate run to deal with post-traumatic stress he attributed to his time in combat with
the Marine Corps. He also said he was suffering from childhood trauma, which had been made worse by issues with alcohol.
Fletcher said he was seeking treatment at the recommendation of his therapist and the insistence of his wife, former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.
In his response to the lawsuit's allegations, Fletcher said, ``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.''
Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.