Jan 26, 2024 - News

Investigation: Ex-county supervisor "not involved" in transit system staffer firing

A Metropolitan Transit System trolley

The Metropolitan Transit System's trolley. Photo: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former county supervisor Nathan Fletcher "was not involved" in firing a former Metropolitan Transit System staffer who accused him of sexual assault and harassment during a series of encounters in 2021 and 2022, according to an outside investigation into the agency's handling of a scandal that led to Fletcher's resignation.

State of play: MTS released findings yesterday by Oppenheimer Investigations Group into Grecia Figueroa's lawsuit last year against Fletcher and MTS that alleged sexual assault, sexual harassment and retaliation.

Investigators determined:

  • MTS employees and officials were unaware of any "personal" or "intimate" relationship between Fletcher and Figueroa ahead of her termination.
  • Evidence of Figueroa's "ongoing performance issues" represented a "plausible explanation" for her termination.
  • Despite board members' anger upon learning of the lawsuit in the press, agency officials were reasonable not to immediately report the accusations to the board.

Flashback: Figueroa last March accused Fletcher, then-MTS board chair, of stalking her on social media before initiating a flirtatious online relationship in which she reciprocated out of fear of retaliation.

  • Fletcher dropped his state Senate campaign as soon as the allegation became public and later resigned his supervisorial seat.
  • Questions over MTS' response led the board to hire Oppenheimer last April to investigate Figueroa's firing and whether Fletcher or their relationship were connected.

Between the lines: The investigation did not look into whether Fletcher and Figueroa's relationship was consensual, or if it constituted sexual harassment or assault.

  • The fact that board members learned of the lawsuit in the media led them to wonder whether Fletcher's "political power and influence had impacted MTS officials' better judgment."
  • The investigation "did not uncover evidence that MTS officials were trying to protect Fletcher, hide information from the board or otherwise acted in bad faith."

The other side: Despite concluding that performance issues plausibly explained Figueora's termination, the investigation did find she received positive reviews in her first and second years of employment.

  • "The fact that Figueroa received a negative evaluation only after the alleged sexual harassment and assault by Fletcher could suggest that her job performance was not the reason for the termination," the investigation reads.
  • "Many witnesses," including her supervisors, told investigators that Figueroa excelled in certain areas, while others reported ongoing struggles.

What they're saying: Figueroa's attorney, Jessica Pride, issued a statement saying they were "unsurprised and disappointed," calling the allegations of "performance issues" baseless and stressing that Figueroa was not interviewed or consulted by the "supposedly independent" body.

  • Fletcher's attorneys, who recently released Instagram messages that they argue reflect a consensual relationship, in a statement to Axios said the investigation proved their contention that Fletcher was not Figueroa's supervisor and played no role in her termination.
avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios San Diego.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More San Diego stories

No stories could be found

San Diegopostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios San Diego.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more