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Recall effort targeting Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli kicks off

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

Less than a year after directly electing their first mayor, Windsor voters may be asked in the months ahead to remove him from office, as a recall effort against Dominic Foppoli officially began Monday.

The campaign to recall Foppoli has served him with notice of their intent and delivered the proper paperwork to the Windsor Town Hall. The move came more than two weeks after the first of seven women came forward to publicly accuse Foppoli, a 38-year-old winemaker, of sexual assault over a period stretching from 2003 to 2020. The allegations were first reported out of a lengthy investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Leaders of the campaign committee, called United Residents for Recalling Foppoli, said they hope to hit the streets and begin collecting signatures by early May.

“The citizens of Windsor are prepared to swiftly move forward with a recall election to remove him from office for good,” Mark Malouf, the campaign’s manager, said.

Proponents of Foppoli’s ouster will have 120 days to gather signatures from 20% of Windsor’s 16,879 registered voters. To force a recall election the campaign will need 3,376 signatures, according to Sonoma County Registrar of Voters Deva Proto.

Campaign officials don’t see that as too high a bar, given the level of local outrage over the allegations against Foppoli. Over 1,100 people — a third of the required signature total — have submitted their names as volunteers or donors, according to Malouf.

Though not all those people are Windsor residents, the number shows an outpouring of support for the campaign that is likely reflected inside the town itself, he said.

Foppoli, who has proclaimed his innocence, did not respond to a request for comment.

Foppoli has refused widespread calls to leave office but has stepped back from his regular duties as mayor. In California, elected officials can be stripped of their posts through felony conviction or a voter-initiated recall. Allegations against Foppoli are being investigated by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, which is working in conjunction with the California Attorney General’s office.

A wide and unified bloc of elected officials, from Foppoli’s fellow council members to all eight other mayors in Sonoma County, all five county supervisors and the county’s two congressman have called on Foppoli to resign. His brother, Joe Foppoli, also joined in those calls and moved to strip him of his roles with Christopher Creek Winery.

On Monday, Windsor Deputy Town Clerk Sommer Hageman announced in an email just before 1 p.m. that the recall campaign had filed its notice of intention to circulate a recall petition. Town staff was verifying the signatures accompanying the petition, Hageman wrote.

The recall process is likely to take months, even if the allegations have sparked enough outrage in the town to drive a flood of volunteers and petition signers.

Once the campaign submits signatures, they will then have to be verified before a recall election is mounted. State law gives election officials 30 days to complete that verification process.

At last week’s Windsor Town Council meeting, the campaign’s chairman Tim Zahner said they hoped to be gathering signatures to advance the recall effort by the middle of next month.

He also made one more call on Foppoli to save voters the long, expensive effort of pursuing a recall election. “We are just asking that Foppoli do the right thing and step down immediately,” Zahner said at the meeting. “It would save us all a lot of time and a lot of money and allow the town to heal.”

Recall organizers do not expect an election before either late this year or in early 2022, Malouf said. Foppoli will be back on the ballot in November 2022, if he remains in office that long.

“The (town) of Windsor is stepping up here and saying we’re not going to wait that long,” Malouf said.

Foppoli has been mayor of Windsor since late 2018. As vice mayor in late 2017, he was slated to become mayor a year earlier. The Town Council at the time denied him the spot after receiving an emailed warning that year about Foppoli acting in a “predatory” way toward women staying at his winery in 2013, according to three councilmembers from the time. One of those women came forward in the San Francisco Chronicle last week to say that Foppoli sexually assaulted her in the winery’s hot tub.

Though the council denied Foppoli the mayorship, the town never made the allegations public. The council selected Foppoli as mayor in 2018 and 2019 before he won the post last year in the town’s first direct election for mayor.

Councilmembers now support the recall election. “The recall must proceed as quickly as possible,” Councilwoman Deb Fudge said in an email on Monday. “The Mayor has proven unfit to serve on the Town Council in any form.”

Fudge has volunteered to gather signatures, she said.

Staff writer Austin Murphy contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or andrew.graham@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @AndrewGraham88.

Andrew Graham

Business enterprise and investigations, The Press Democrat 

I dig into businesses, utility companies and nonprofits to learn how their actions, or inactions, impact the lives of North Bay residents. I’m looking to dive deep into public utilities, labor struggles and real estate deals. I try to approach my work with the journalism axioms of giving voice to the voiceless, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable in mind.

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

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