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After resigning amid sexual assault claims, Dominic Foppoli files to run again for Windsor mayor

Coverage of the Dominic Foppoli scandal

The Press Democrat is continuing to closely report on the investigations and allegations facing former Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli.

To contact the reporters on this story, email Lori A. Carter at lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com and Andrew Graham at andrew.graham@pressdemocrat.com

Click here to read our complete coverage.

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

Former Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli, who resigned in May under a cloud of sexual assault and misconduct claims, has filed paperwork signaling his intent to run for his old seat in November 2022, according to copies of the forms reviewed by The Press Democrat.

Foppoli filed a “candidate intention statement” and paperwork to create a campaign committee on Tuesday, unleashing a wave of shock and disbelief in Windsor and across Sonoma County on Wednesday over the possibility the former councilman would attempt a political comeback just months after his exit from office amid an explosive scandal.

He remains under criminal investigation in Sonoma County and in Florida in separate cases stemming from sexual assault allegations made against him. California’s campaign finance watchdog agency also has two open probes into complaints about his past political spending.

Windsor council members, who were unanimous this spring in their calls for his resignation, signaled he would not be welcome back on the campaign trail or in public office, while downplaying the significance of Tuesday’s campaign filing.

Several incumbents who served with him suggested his move may merely have been a way to access nearly $24,000 campaign cash carried over from 2020.

“If it really is a plan to run for office, then I’m surprised,” said Sam Salmon, the longtime councilman who was appointed mayor to replace Foppoli. “But it might be just a way to keep that campaign money alive. You can’t spend it on yourself.”

The town inserted a similar note of caution Wednesday, noting in a press release the step Foppoli took was not “a formal commitment” to run. Foppoli would have to file formal nomination papers in July 2022.

Foppoli_papers.pdf

Foppoli did not respond to multiple requests for comment Wednesday, and a person who answered the door at his home said his car was gone “so he’s probably not home.”

However, KCBS Radio reported a written statement attributed to Foppoli that said he had “made no decision to run at this point.”

First elected to the council in 2014, Foppoli, 39, served two years as the town’s appointed mayor before being elected to the post in 2020. He resigned after nine women, including Windsor Councilwoman Esther Lemus, publicly accused him of sexual assault or other sexual misconduct.

His campaign filing sounded a loud political alarm in Windsor and reopened still-raw wounds for the town of about 27,000 residents while plunging it into a fresh maelstrom of state and national media attention.

He drew wide condemnation Wednesday from elected officials in local and state government.

Foppoli’s decision was a “perfect example of narcissism and delusional thinking,” said Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynda Hopkins.

Initially shocked by the news, Hopkins said said she then regarded it as characteristic of Foppoli’s behavior since the allegations first surfaced. He rejected all claims that his behavior violated the law and for six weeks this spring rejected escalating calls by Windsor constituents and the wider world that he resign.

“What he did and what he continues to do has traumatized so many women,” Hopkins said, worrying about how his political plans would impact the women who made allegations against him and other sexual assault victims.

“We all knew it was going to take a long time to heal and we now know if he does choose to follow through with this (the pain) will last into next November,” said Windsor Vice Mayor Rosa Reynoza, who was elected in a special May election to fill the council seat vacated after Foppoli won the inaugural race for a directly elected mayor’s post last year.

Longtime Windsor Councilwoman Deb Fudge agreed with Salmon’s suggestion that Foppoli may just be trying to keep his options open for his campaign coffers since he is no longer in office and not in an active campaign.

“If you have campaign funds, you have to designate them by law,” she said.

Former candidates or ex-officer holders have several ways they must disburse extra funds, she said: donating the money to nonprofits and closing their campaign account; giving the money to another campaign and closing the account; or designating the money to a future office you may run for, keeping the money under your control.

“You can either run or designate those funds later,” she said. “Somebody not in government would not understand there are options.”

She stressed she has no inside information about Foppoli’s intentions.

“Saying you’re running for something doesn’t mean you actually will,” Fudge said. “You just keep a campaign alive to use funds for the future.”

Coverage of the Dominic Foppoli scandal

The Press Democrat is continuing to closely report on the investigations and allegations facing former Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli.

To contact the reporters on this story, email Lori A. Carter at lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com and Andrew Graham at andrew.graham@pressdemocrat.com

Click here to read our complete coverage.

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

State Sen. Mike McGuire, a former Sonoma County supervisor and Healdsburg councilman, said even the signal sent by Foppoli’s political filing was disruptive and traumatic for the community.

“Bottom line is this: Mr. Foppoli needs to shut down his campaign account. He’s absolutely not fit for office. The thought of him running for mayor causes further trauma and pain for the survivors and the community at large. He was a disgrace to the mayor’s office and sent the entire community into turmoil.”

Rather than pushing his way back into the public sphere, Foppoli needs to take responsibility by lying low and working toward making amends, Hopkins said. That task promises a “lifetime of work,” she added.

When he announced his resignation May 21, Foppoli acknowledged the scandal involving him and his continued presence in public office had weighed heavily on Windsor.

“Windsor should continue to thrive,” he said, “and I believe that at this juncture, stepping down is the best way to ensure that Windsor flourishes, unimpeded by the unfortunate distraction these exploitative allegations will cause.”

The town council has struggled in the wake of the public allegations. Town officials were criticized for their handling of two previous warnings about Foppoli’s behavior toward women, and bitter debate emerged in council meetings over how to fill his seat. A special election is set for April 2022 to fill the seat vacated by Salmon’s appointment to mayor.

Fudge said if Foppoli truly does intend to run for mayor again, he’s “not really taking the temperature of the room.”

“Right now the town is going ballistic and if I were him and I were trying to hold my funds for future candidates, I would have made that statement ahead.

“It’s not going over well,” she said. “I’m not sure what he’s doing but it stirs everyone up and it’s not good for the town. It’s harmful to the town and I’m distressed he would keep the account open without an up-front explanation.”

At the town council’s regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, Foppoli’s filing did not elicit any public comment from residents and the council had no plans to address it, according to Councilwoman Esther Lemus.

“The town is still raw, that is true. As am I and other survivors,” Lemus said in a brief phone interview. “We’ll see how things unfold. I don’t know what his true intention is.”

Foppoli filed a campaign finance report for his old campaign, Friends of Dominic Foppoli for Mayor 2020, on July 20. He reported having a cash balance of $23,629.

He remains the subject of a pair of criminal investigations.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has been investigating sexual assault allegations against Foppoli since early April, when the San Francisco Chronicle published a report detailing the allegations of four women. Authorities have declined to comment on its progress.

The investigation is ongoing, Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Juan Valencia said Wednesday.

Foppoli is also being investigated on suspicion of felony sexual battery by the Palm Beach Police Department in Florida. Reality TV star Farrah Abraham has accused Foppoli in an April 2 police report of assault in an undated encounter at a single-family home in the wealthy Florida enclave.

Salmon said the town’s sentiments about Foppoli were clear during emotional council meetings where residents and fellow council members called on him to resign. Foppoli presided over an April 14 meeting, Foppoli faced a hostile audience who over hours lambasted his alleged behavior “disgusting” and “deplorable” and said they were “sickened” by him.

A representative for the recall campaign that sought to oust Foppoli from office before he resigned did not respond to a request for comment, and the campaign’s Facebook page had no mention of the filing as of Wednesday evening.

Disbelief was the prevailing reaction Wednesday, according to Salmon.

“I would think people would just roll their eyes. ‘Are you really running?’” he said. “Unless something comes out and Dominic can say ‘You were wrong about me.’ Because that’s gotta happen or yeah, people would react (similarly.)

Two investigations into Foppoli’s political activity also remain open under the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state campaign finance watchdog agency.

State investigators in June began looking into a complaint that Foppoli violated campaign finance rules with past payments, including to a former girlfriend and to the finance chief of his family’s Healdsburg winery.

A more recent complaint, opened in August, alleges Foppoli had conflicts of interest while voting on a proposed Town Green development because he owns a property about 600 feet from the massive development.

Staff writers Austin Murphy, Emma Murphy and Colin Atagi contributed to this report.

You can reach Staff Writers Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com and Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or andrew.graham@pressdemocrat.com.

Lori A. Carter

 Sonoma County courts and Rohnert Park, The Press Democrat

Local journalism is vital to a community's wellbeing, and that means keeping an eye on what happens in our justice system and our communities. I cover Sonoma County courts, as well as the city of Rohnert Park. In my work, I want to share the stories that affect our daily lives and, yes, maybe even rile us up. 

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