Nathan Fletcher

Fletcher Resignation: What Are Next Steps for County Supervisors and How Much Will It Cost?

How will the San Diego County Board of Supervisors fill the District 4 vacancy once Nathan Fletcher's resignation is effective on May 15?

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors will have a vacancy on May 15 when Supervisor Nathan Fletcher's resignation will be effective.

Fletcher took a medical leave of absence for alcohol abuse, childhood trauma and PTSD last Sunday, just days before a lawsuit was made public alleging that Fletcher sexually assaulted and harassed an MTS employee while he was the MTS board chair. Fletcher has denied the allegations but said that he had consensual extramarital "interactions" with the employee, Grecia Figueroa. In the suit, Figueroa maintains was fired from her job at MTS, named as a co-defendant in the suit, with no explanation on the same day that Fletcher announced his candidacy for state senate. A spokeswoman for the MTS said last week that Figueroa was fired because of performance concerns and Fletcher had nothing to do with it.

Now the county board of supervisors must decide if it will hold a special election or go through an appointment process to fill the vacancy.

Fletcher's term was set to end in 2027. According to board policy, the board has seven business days after the vacancy is effective to determine the method of how to fill it. If the board knows the date of the vacancy in advance, it can meet up to 20 business days before that date to determine the method. Chair of the board of supervisors, Nora Vargas, has said the board will take up the matter at its next regularly scheduled board meeting, on May 2.

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters will be present at the meeting to report on potential costs and schedules of a special election and if there is a chance that a special election could be consolidated with a regularly scheduled election.

"Two million bucks can go a long ways to do a special election, so I'm actually OK with probably going through the process, potentially attempting an appointment," said Supervisor Jim Desmond, who represents District 5.

With Fletcher out of the mix, the remaining four supervisors are split 50/50 along party lines. Desmond and Joel Anderson are Republicans, and Supervisors Terra Lawson-Remer and Nora Vargas are Democrats. The county board of supervisors had always been majority Republican until the 2020 election. Desmond says he thinks the even divide won't have a huge impact on getting things done while they wait for the fifth seat to be filled. He said all four supervisors are focused on housing, tackling homelessness and finding solutions for the mental health crisis.

"We are pretty much in alignment on all of those things," Desmond said. "It's when the more controversial stuff comes up that we have disagreements on, but that’s that’s why you have five people."

The 50/50 divide might make finding a candidate that three out of four supervisors can get behind might be difficult.

"If we can get a moderate that we can all work with, I think that might — that’s got the most potential, but if it's somebody from the far left or somebody from the far right, then no," Desmond said.

“I don’t condone any of Supervisor Fletcher’s actions, but at the end of the day my concern is not about getting even with him — it’s about doing right by his constituents," Supervisor Joel Anderson said. "My constituents do not like when politicians from outside our community tell them what its best for them. I would not presume to do that to District 4 residents. 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."

So far, Janessa Goldbeck, a Democrat and a United States Marines Corps veteran who ran against Sara Jacobs for Congress in 2020, is the only person who has announced her candidacy for District 4. Goldbeck, who made the announcement before Fletcher resigned, is currently the CEO of a veterans advocacy nonprofit. NBC7 has reached out to Goldbeck numerous times for an interview to discuss her candidacy and platform, but she has been unavailable for comment.

If the board decides to pursue an appointment, they will determine a schedule for public hearings and the application process. Applications must be filed within 7-10 business days of the meeting at which the board decided to pursue an appointment process. The application includes two 500-word essays outlining the candidate's qualifications and why they want the job. After the application deadline, the board has 1-7 business days to hold a hearing; each applicant will be asked to give a three-minute oral presentation and participate in a question-and-answer session with the current supervisors. The next hearing, with the Top 5 candidates, will take place no less than three days after the first one. Candidates will give 10-minute oral presentations, participate in another question-and-answer session, and then, whichever candidate gets three votes from the Supervisors will fill the vacancy.

According to the Registrar of Voters, if a special election is called, it will be held in the supervisorial district in which the vacancy occurred on a Tuesday, at least 76 days but not more than 90 days following the adoption of the resolution calling for the special election. The other option is a special primary election and a special general election may be consolidated with the next regularly scheduled statewide election within 180 days of the adoption of the resolution to conduct a special election.

If only one candidate qualifies for the special primary election, that candidate shall be appointed to the vacancy by the remaining members of the board for the unexpired term, according to the San Diego County charter. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the special primary election, a special general election will be held on the 12th Tuesday after the date of the special primary election. The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary will be the candidates in the general election.

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