Calls growing for Fletcher's immediate resignation
Calls for Fletcher’s resignation grew louder Tuesday as members of the public voiced their displeasure at the San Diego County Board of Supervisors meeting.
This was the first board meeting since Fletcher announced last week that he will resign effective May 15. The string of public speakers on this issue is part of the reason Supervisor Jim Desmond is calling for Fletcher to step down immediately.
“I think this is so egregious we need to get on. We got to move on," he said. "Our meeting today (Tuesday) ... we have a lot of speakers that talking about his infractions and what he's been accused of, and it's really slowing down the process for the county.”
Desmond first issued the call for Fletcher’s resignation on Monday.
Fletcher said in a statement released last Wednesday that he would resign at the behest of his wife, former Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, to focus on his mental health. He's also resigned as chair of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS).
During the opening remarks at Tuesday's meeting, board Chair Nora Vargas said the board will discuss Fletcher's replacement at its May 2 meeting as a direct response to Desmond's comment.
Vargas said the past week had been challenging for the board and county government in the wake of Fletcher's announcement, but her colleagues are committed to moving the process forward.
"United and with your input, our board will determine the best direction for our county," Vargas said.
According to the county's charter, the board can appoint someone to fill the vacancy or hold a special election or a combination of the two.
“Over the next two weeks, we’ll follow a process established by our board policy and charter which gives us options on filing the future vacancy for District 4,” she said.
Fletcher announced on March 26 that he was checking into a treatment center for post-traumatic stress, trauma and alcohol abuse and was withdrawing from the state Senate race to replace Toni Atkins. The following Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed by former MTS employee Grecia Figueroa alleging that Fletcher sexually assaulted her on two occasions and harassed her for months before she was fired on the day he announced his candidacy for Atkins' seat.
Initially, Fletcher was greeted with outpourings of support for his PTSD — he was a Marine combat veteran of the second Iraq war. But since the sexual assault and harassment allegations surfaced, veterans say that leaves them with a distaste.
“Anytime somebody tries to give the impression they're shirking their responsibility and trying to have a cloak of invisibility and use PTSD to wriggle out of something that is not going to bode well for the veteran community,” said Marine veteran Kate Monroe.
Monroe is also the founder of the advocacy group Vetcomm helping veterans file their PTSD and military sexual trauma claims. She and other veterans are also calling for Fletcher’s immediate resignation.
“In addition, we'd also like him to issue either an apology or a statement, essentially assuring everyone that he did not place a sexual assault stigma on PTSD,” she said.
In a statement, Supervisor Joel Anderson said he does not condone Fletcher's actions and is concerned about doing right by Fletcher's constituents.
"My constituents do not like when politicians from outside our community tell them what is best for them. I would not presume to do that to District 4 residents," he said. "But it is important that we all know what the options are, which is why I have reached out to County Counsel to provide concrete answers, so we are not making decisions based on pure speculation.”
Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said in a statement to KPBS she was "sad, frustrated and disappointed" with Fletcher's alleged actions but supports the full independent investigation by the MTS that is currently underway.
She said Fletcher's May 15's resignation date gives the county time to plan a "timely and orderly transition."
"I look forward to filling the District 4 seat through a participatory and deliberative process to ensure continued democratic representation and good governance for the people of San Diego County," she said.