Angry Windsor residents demand Mayor Dominic Foppoli resign
Windsor residents unleashed their fury and fiery disdain at Mayor Dominic Foppoli for hours Wednesday night in a virtual town hall meeting, demanding the mayor accused of sexual assault resign so healing can begin in the community ripped apart by a scandal that could lead to a painful recall election.
Facing a uniformly hostile audience whose participants swore at him, called him a rapist and at times described their own sexual assaults, Foppoli calmly facilitated the first two hours of public comment, flatly inviting people to speak without addressing the incendiary language leveled against him.
Participants used terms like “disgusting,” “deplorable” and “sickened,” as they directed a storm of anger and revulsion over recent disclosures alleging the 38-year-old mayor had sexually assaulted at least six women over the past 18 years. His accusers include fellow council member Esther Lemus, who revealed on Saturday that she suspected Foppoli of drugging and raping her last year.
In a surreal moment during the meeting’s fourth hour, when Foppoli announced he was leaving the meeting “out of respect” for those who were reluctant to speak because he was leading the meeting, the two remaining council members took a hasty vote to demand he resign before they lost their quorum, even though many other people had yet to voice their opinions.
Foppoli suggested they could defer the vote for two weeks, but Councilwoman Debora Fudge, fuming, said, “No, no, I object. You can’t subvert the vote tonight by signing off and having us not have the vote.“
Fudge and Vice Mayor Sam Salmon then voted “yes,” while Foppoli voted against the motion and left the virtual meeting.
Salmon then helmed the meeting, as public comment continued for another 2 1/2 hours.
Foppoli, whose attendance was in question until the meeting began at 6 p.m., appeared tired but resolute as he ran the meeting, announcing at the start that he would not be resigning.
“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," he said.
But Town Manager Ken MacNab said enough staff had expressed discomfort being in his presence, even virtually, that Foppoli had been told to stay away from Town Hall unless it was absolutely essential, in which case he was to call MacNab first.
Every remaining member of the council also had demanded in advance of Wednesday’s meeting that Foppoli resign, as have dozens of other elected officials around the North Coast.
More than 1,000 people squeezed onto Zoom to participate in Wednesday’s 6-hour meeting, with others watching on other platforms once the capacity had been reached on Zoom.
Those who spoke made it clear Foppoli had lost the public’s trust and that it had been replaced with abhorrence.
“Resign, you rapist,” one woman said. “These allegations are credible. They’re multiple. And they’ve been corroborated by lots of people. … And, obviously, there were rumors going on in the town well before this happened. Resign now. You are a rapist.”
Another woman said she was a survivor of sexual assault and told Foppoli his refusal to step down hurt people like her who relived “the terrible things that have happened to us” just by Foppoli’s insisting on remaining in the office.
She begged him “please, please, please, step down,” her voice raw with emotion, and said he made her feel unsafe and worry about her younger sister, a town employee.
“Please step down, and if you don’t, I hope to God that you hear my voice in your head every single day that you don’t.”
Another survivor, a woman called Robin, described an “extremely difficult week” confronting “emotions that I’m sure, like most of the survivors, you try to pretend you’re over. You try to pretend they don’t exist anymore, and not feeling safe in my town is devastating.
“I have five children I’m raising in Windsor, and we’re raising them here because of what Windsor stands for … and for him and his actions to take that away, not just for me and my children, but from all of us, it’s heartbreaking,” she said.
Another caller anxiously described meeting Foppoli after college during catering jobs and as a short-term member of the Active 20-30 Club from which Foppoli was ousted last week. She said she has recently reported to the district attorney some of the things she observed, like seeing Foppoli follow girls into restrooms. She apologized repeatedly for “not saying something sooner.
“I have had my butt grabbed by him, and I have seen some of the things that people are referring to, and we just should have taken this more seriously. And I’m just so sorry to these women that I didn’t come out sooner, ” she said.