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6 takeaways from Windsor Town Council meeting seeking Foppoli’s resignation

Resources for survivors of sexual assault

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you can contact:

Family Justice Center of Sonoma County: 707-565-8255

Verity: 707-545-7273

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673 or online.rainn.org

Three members of the Windsor Town Council convened for a special meeting Wednesday night to determine whether they should demand Mayor Dominic Foppoli, who presided over a portion of the gathering, to resign amid sexual assault allegations from six women, including Councilwoman Esther Lemus.

Here are five takeaways from the six-hour meeting:

1. Foppoli presided over a portion of the meeting, Lemus recused herself

As of Wednesday, Foppoli continued to serve as the elected mayor of Windsor, and therefore he had the legal authority to preside over the special meeting, Windsor attorney Joan Cassman said.

Lemus recused herself from the meeting, citing a conflict of interest related to being one of the six women to publicly accuse Foppoli of sexual assault.

2. Foppoli maintained his innocence in the face of detailed sexual assault allegations

Before the start of public comment, Foppoli denied the sexual assault allegations made against him and thanked those who have shown him support.

Foppoli asked residents to wait on authorities’ investigation before asking him to step down.

“I have my head held high because I know deep in my heart that I have done nothing criminally wrong and will eventually be cleared,” Foppoli said.

3. Calls for Foppoli’s immediate resignation dominated five hours of public comment

Windsor and Sonoma County residents who attended Wednesday’s meeting reiterated calls for Foppoli to step down as mayor. While Foppoli has not been found guilty of wrongdoing by a court of law, several public speakers said Foppoli has lost the trust of his constituents, and therefore was not fit to govern.

Many commenters swore at the mayor and members of the council, and openly called Foppoli a rapist. Others said his voluntary resignation would avoid a lengthy and costly recall process. Some even called for other council members to resign over their failure to take complaints about Foppoli seriously.

4. Foppoli did not respond directly to the harsh criticism

During the two hours of public comment he presided over, Foppoli calmly made clear that he would not be responding to individual comments. As a uniformly hostile audience condemned him and at times fought back tears as they described their own sexual assaults, Foppoli calmly facilitated the discussion, flatly inviting each person to speak while not addressing the emotionally charged conversation.

5. Foppoli left before the end of public comment, forcing a vote

At about 9:30 p.m., Foppoli announced he wanted to “hand over the gavel to Vice Mayor Salmon” and leave the meeting before the end of public comment. Speakers who said they were upset about him presiding over the meeting led to the decision, he said.

Town staff alerted the council that Foppoli’s absence would mean council members would no longer have a quorum needed to cast a vote.

Salmon then motioned for an immediate vote, which was seconded by Fudge.

The pair voted to demand Foppoli to resign, while Foppoli opposed.

The motion, which is largely symbolic, passed.

Foppoli left the meeting after the council’s vote, though he did not indicate whether the calls for him to step down as the town’s mayor resonated with him before leaving. Comment continued until just before midnight.

6. If Foppoli does not resign, the clearest two ways he can be removed from office is by a voter-initiated recall or by felony conviction.

Some Windsor residents already are moving forward with the first option. Earlier in the week, a group of “concerned residents of Windsor” announced in a statement that they were launching a campaign to recall Foppoli and planned to file necessary documents with election officials.

The Town of Windsor had not yet received any paperwork as of early Thursday afternoon, Maria De La O said in an email.

Meanwhile, the California Attorney General’s Office has taken over investigating potential criminal charges against Foppoli after Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch recused her prosecutors from the investigation. One of the women who came forward to publicly accuse Foppoli of sexual assault, Lemus, also is a deputy district attorney.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

Resources for survivors of sexual assault

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you can contact:

Family Justice Center of Sonoma County: 707-565-8255

Verity: 707-545-7273

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673 or online.rainn.org

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   

 

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