San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced Wednesday in response to a new lawsuit against him alleging retaliation and harassment, that he did have an affair with the woman who filed the suit while also calling her allegations false.
— Priya Sridhar (@PriyaNBCSD) March 29, 2023
Controversy is nothing new for Fletcher, who has served as an SD County Supervisor since 2019 and previously in the State Assembly from 2008 to 2012. In the mid 2010s, Fletcher left his first wife and adopted children, divorced her, dated then-Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, then married her all within a two-year-span. Outside of his personal life, he has also caught heat politically on everything from preventing labor strikes to abruptly switching his political party in the middle of the 2013 San Diego Mayoral election.
However, despite these past incidents, Fletcher’s political star had been on the rise yet again in recent years. Fletcher returned to public office as a Supervisor in 2019, and by 2021, was President of the County Supervisors Board. In July of last year, his wife, Lorena, resigned from the Assembly to become head of the California Labor Federation, cementing labor support for him in future elections. Following that, Fletcher returned to his regular Supervisor role in January, only to announce his run for the State Senate in February. At the beginning of March, Fletcher looked poised to become one of the top state leaders once again.
But things quickly spiraled out of control. Earlier this week, Fletcher dropped out of the state Senate race stating PTSD issues, which he claims came from alcohol abuse and childhood trauma. He quickly left the state for treatment, leaving many commentators to note on the suddenness of the announcement. Less than 48 hours later, the next bombshell hit, with a former San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) employee suing him over an affair that allegedly led to harassment and retaliation in the form of her losing her job.
I have to seek help. With the recommendation of my therapist and the insistence of my wife, this week I will be checking into an extended inpatient treatment center for post traumatic stress, trauma and alcohol abuse.
— Nathan Fletcher (@nathanfletcher) March 27, 2023
While the suit has not yet been made public yet, Fletcher’s decision to drop out of a major race and leave the state for PTSD treatment only a few days before such an announcement led to increased scrutiny of Fletcher’s actions, leading to his announcement on Wednesday. In it he admitted to the affair while also denying the allegations made by the former MTS employee in the suit.
“Last year, I made a terrible mistake engaging in consensual interactions with someone outside my marriage. 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. 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.”
Later on Wednesday, his lawyer, Danielle Hultenius Moore, also released a statement noting, “My client and his wife have been facing an attempt by a former colleague to obtain millions of dollars. We have asked the authorities to investigate these efforts and are pursuing our own legal response. The allegations are false and are designed to drive headlines and not tell the truth. It is also notable that they only include one side of the communications. The simple truth is that Ms. Figueroa pursued my 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.”
Also receiving flak is Lorena Gonzalez, his wife, for her response. Earlier this week, Gonzalez tweeted that “I love my husband and appreciate his willingness to put our family first.”
I love my husband and appreciate his willingness to put our family first. https://t.co/vEsfw2DKBi
— Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (@LorenaSGonzalez) March 27, 2023
However, the tweets by her as well, as her husbands admittance to having an affair and the new allegations, now go against previous things that she has said about similar situations. Previously she has said that “Just in case there is any confusion: yes, any unwanted sexual contact is sexual assault. Don’t do it.” With her husband now under fire once again, Gonzalez herself now faces charges of being hypocritical by critics.
Just in case there is any confusion: yes, any unwanted sexual contact is sexual assault. Don't do it. https://t.co/ya2k4q7lad
— Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (@LorenaSGonzalez) October 11, 2016
Political experts noted on Wednesday that while t allegations remain allegations for the time being, Fletcher’s admittance of the affair as well as his dramatic exit from the Senate race only a few days before will, at the very least, halt his political ambitions for the foreseeable future.
“Affairs in politics can bring out a lot of things, but at the very least, they raise questions on trust and truth,” explained Southern Californian pollster Ernie Rodriguez to the Globe on Wednesday. “Fletcher may remain a Supervisor with all of this going on, but any other higher office he will try for in the future will now have this. Possibly more too if the lawsuit moves forward.”
“He had been something of a comeback kid too after being out of office for seven years and looking to go back to Sacramento. Well that dream is over. And with the PTSD treatment announcement. He had gotten a lot of goodwill over that. Mental health issues are being seen more and more sympathetically, and people from both parties sent him messages of support after leaving to get treatment earlier this week. That’s nothing to ridicule. But now with it coming so close to the lawsuit dropping, a lot of people are now questioning if this was coincidental or not. At the very least, the timing wasn’t great.”
“As for his wife, yeah, she needs to make her stance firm right now, because what she has said in the past on similar incidents is starting to seem hypocritical. He initial response was to her husband going in for treatment and not the affair, but it coming out only days before is a bit of a problem now.
“For Fletcher though, this is not great. His chickens are coming home to roost now so to speak, and we have not yet seen what the full cost of the affair and allegations will be. His political future is very much in jeopardy right now.”
The lawsuit, filed in the San Diego Superior Court, is expected to be made public soon.
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