REGION — An attorney’s 13-page demand letter details when the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System knew, or should have known, about a former employee’s sexual assault and harassment claims against Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.
Attorney Zach Schumacher represents Grecia Figueroa, 34, a former MTS worker who filed a sexual assault and harassment lawsuit last month against Fletcher.
Schumacher sent the letter to MTS on Feb. 17, six weeks before the lawsuit was made public.
After news broke of the scandal, MTS released a statement saying no member of the executive management knew about Figueroa’s claims or pending lawsuit. However, Schumacher’s letter, sent to Jeff Stumbo, MTS chief human resources officer, appears to contradict the transit agency’s official statement.
Fletcher stepped down as MTS board chair on March 28, the same day Figueroa’s lawsuit was filed in Superior Court. Two days earlier, Fletcher said he was entering an out-of-state inpatient facility for treatment related to alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder from his combat service as a U.S. Marine and childhood trauma.
The day after news broke of the lawsuit, Fletcher announced his resignation on March 29 from the Board of Supervisors effective at 5 p.m. on May 15.
A video, posted to Twitter by Scott Lewis of Voice of San Diego, appears to show Fletcher leaning back and smiling at Figueroa during an MTS press conference, further corroborating allegations detailed in her lawsuit.
Schumacher’s letter “demands” all employment records regarding Figueroa and for the agency to maintain and not destroy any and all records, digital, hard copies, or otherwise, relating to Figueroa’s employment and firing.
Schumacher also requested the communications of metadata, servers, laptops, and other electronic systems from 16 individuals, 15 of whom were identified as high-level MTS employees, plus Fletcher.
“Because your obligation to preserve some types of evidence (particularly electronic evidence) may be complicated and/or highly technical in nature, we strongly urge you to immediately share this demand for the preservation of evidence with your legal counsel, your IT department, and your human resources department so that they can take charge and ensure your compliance with your preservation obligations,” the letter reads.
Schumacher also requests any records of complaints made by other employees regarding gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation, along with the results of any other investigations into those claims.
In addition to sexual assault, harassment and abuse, Figueroa is also suing for retaliation and whistleblower protection.
The letter also requests MTS stop all practices of destroying evidence, along with utilizing messaging and email programs or apps that use “disappearing” messages or emails.
Media reports last year detailed how Fletcher and his staff, among others, used the Signal app, which describes itself as using “state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption” with protocols for scheduling the automatic deletion of messages. At the time, Fletcher told reporters his office complied with all public records requests, including those tied to their Signal accounts.
On April 6, the MTS board of directors authorized an investigation into Fletcher’s conduct by independent counsel. The transit agency will also conduct its own investigation through its contracted law firm, according to media reports.
“It is the board’s intent that the findings of the investigation will be made public,” MTS interim chairman Stephen Whitburn said at a press conference. “The board also instructed counsel not to protect any requests to indemnify or defend Nathan Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher failed to act in good faith, and in a manner we believe to be, in the best interest of MTS.”
Whitburn is also a named defendant and witness in a civil lawsuit from Oscar Rendon, who claims he was raped by former San Diego County Democratic Party Chairman Will Rodriguez-Kennedy last year.
I presume this is the grin — a big smile he holds and you can see her very briefly glance at him but not reciprocate. pic.twitter.com/SYFYLkM4tO
— Scott Lewis (@vosdscott) April 6, 2023
The 15-member MTS board is composed of elected officials from the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, Coronado, El Cajon, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, National City, Poway and Santee, and a member from the Board of Supervisors.
So far, a growing list of bipartisan mayors and elected officials, some of whom serve on the MTS board directly or as alternates, have called for Fletcher’s immediate resignation, including Supervisor Nora Vargas, Supervisor Jim Desmond, Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre, San Diego Councilwoman Vivian Moreno and Carlsbad Priya Bhat-Patel.
Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who represents District 3 on the Board of Supervisors, has declined to call for her colleague’s immediate resignation.