Brother joins calls for Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli to resign over sex assault allegations

“Elected officials should be held to higher standards of moral character and no matter what comes out, he has not done that and he needs to step down,” Foppoli’s older brother, Joe Foppoli, told reporters at a protest at the family’s Healdsburg winery.|

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

More than 50 people rallied in a public display of support for Windsor Town Councilwoman Esther Lemus on Sunday evening following her allegation that she was sexually assaulted by Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli, part of what her attorney described as a pattern of “predatory behavior.”

The gathering on the Town Green came just hours after Foppoli’s brother and business partner called on Dominic Foppoli to resign from office amid mounting allegations that Windsor’s mayor had sexually assaulted six women between 2002 and 2020.

Joe Foppoli, chief operating officer of the family’s Healdsburg winery, told reporters Sunday morning that he has taken steps to remove his brother as both CEO and co-owner of Christopher Creek Winery and is urging him to resign as mayor.

“Elected officials should be held to higher standards of moral character and no matter what comes out, he has not done that and he needs to step down,” he said. “This is not good for the community. I’m so disappointed and disgusted.”

In a lengthy statement issued Saturday, Dominic Foppoli said he is innocent and will refuse to resign while he fights to clear his name. “I am not a rapist nor have I ever pressured any female to engage in sexual conduct with me,” Foppoli said in a statement emailed to The Press Democrat.

Lemus on Saturday became the sixth woman to level charges of sexual assault against Foppoli, asserting the 38-year-old mayor slipped her drugs to facilitate sex without her consent. Lemus made her allegations in an interview with The Press Democrat hours after Foppoli said Lemus had coerced him into a “sexual situation” and then threatened his political career if he exposed her.

Traci Carrillo, a victims’ rights attorney representing Lemus, called Foppoli’s actions typical of a predator trying to control the narrative of a story when an alleged victim comes forward.

“I used to prosecute people just like him. I know exactly the type,” she told supporters at the rally. “Unfortunately they don’t change. They are big bullies and they try and bully so that the people coming forward will back down.”

Carrillo, a former prosecutor with Lemus, who currently works as a deputy district attorney, believes there are likely more victims and encouraged them to come forward.

“It’s obviously speculation but I have seen little tidbits in Facebook posts and people who have been openly supporting Esther and have talked about things that they know,” she said. “I believe somebody like that has so many more victims because it is a pattern and it’s continued action that has been unchecked.”

Hours before the rally in Windsor that drew Lemus’ family members and friends, a small group of demonstrators gathered outside Christopher Creek Winery to denounce Foppoli’s alleged actions.

Sophia Williams, one of the four women who initially accused Foppoli of sexual assault in a story published Thursday by the San Francisco Chronicle, stood on the side of Limerick Lane holding a sign that read “Mayor your own body.” Her two children ran at her feet, her husband stood at her side.

Williams, like Carrillo, believes the chorus of women coming forward to share their stories about Foppoli is telling.

“That is the hard part,” she said Sunday. “Because most of the time when this happens, you are the one person with this story, so I can see why you just won’t say anything, his word against yours kind of thing. But to have all these women have stories?”

Joe Foppoli, who spent an hour outside the winery and spoke with nearly every protester, said his brother “reluctantly” agreed to leave the business.

“I haven’t given him a choice. At some point I need to put my foot down,” he said.

Joe Foppoli said he had no knowledge of after-hours parties at the winery or of a 2017 email sent to then-Windsor Mayor Debora Fudge raising allegations that Dominic Foppoli invited himself to a private dinner held by someone who rented the winery guesthouse. The letter contends that Dominic Foppoli tried to remove a guest’s bathing suit by the hot tub and made two Christopher Creek employees take off their underwear and wear “blanket togas.”

But Williams, who was joined Sunday by about 10 protesters in front of Christopher Creek Winery, said removing Foppoli from the family business is not enough. She said Foppoli must resign as mayor.

Williams told the Chronicle that Foppoli climbed into bed with her in 2006 after a night of drinking and dancing with classmates from a Santa Rosa Junior College class, then began rubbing his groin against her and tried to remove her pants as Williams told him to stop. She locked herself in the bathroom for hours, she said, and fled in the middle of the night when a friend came to pick her up.

The incident has weighed on her for 15 years, she said Sunday.

“He was my friend at the time. I have spent 15 years with this story — that I had been drinking too, I was partially to blame. It wasn’t until all this came up and all these other women’s stories that now I have a knot in my stomach about my story, because it feels like it could have been very different,” she said.

“So far I’m the only one who actually got away,” she said.

Hollie Clausen of Santa Rosa helped organize the protest in front of Foppoli’s winery. The announcement that Foppoli is no longer CEO and will have no ownership stake in Christopher Creek held little sway with her.

“That’s not good enough. He needs to resign,” she said. “He needs to resign from mayor and Sheriff (Mark) Essick needs to press charges and get his bum in jail. Foppoli needs to be held accountable and he needs to know the community is paying attention and we are not going to let this just blow over like the next news story or whatever. It’s here and it’s apparent and something needs to happen.”

Foppoli has not been seen in public since the allegations were publicly leveled. His brother said the mayor is staying with friends. He described him as “very upset and scared and obviously he feels wronged. … He feels things are being portrayed differently than they really were.”

“I told him regardless of any of that, and I don’t believe the worst of the accusations about you, but you clearly have been living a lifestyle that I don’t personally agree with and the fact that I found out that these kind of parties and things may have been happening here after hours that I wasn’t aware of, I’m disgusted by it,” he said.

Two wine trade organizations made moves to censure Christopher Creek before Foppoli lost his job at the family winery.

Russian River Valley Winegrowers, a regional group of wineries and grape growers, has terminated the membership of Christopher Creek. “We expect our members to act with integrity and respect and will not tolerate less,” the trade group said in a statement.

Sonoma County Vintners, the county’s largest winery group, suspended Christopher Creek from all its programs and activities. The action also includes the removal of its wine from the 2021 Sonoma County Barrel Auction lots for the group’s upcoming auction.

Staff writer Bill Swindell contributed to this story. You can reach Staff Writer Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or On Twitter @benefield.

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

Kerry Benefield

Columnist, The Press Democrat

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