Why was Dominic Foppoli, now accused of sex assault, just appointed to the Golden Gate Bridge District?

County supervisors, who formalized the appointment April 6, heard days beforehand of a forthcoming, damaging news report about the Windsor mayor. They went ahead with his appointment.|

<strong id="strong-d39ab9b30d3c6e5aacf723590f9c1570">Resources for survivors of sexual assault</strong>

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

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

Verity: 707-545-7273

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673

The vote was set for April 6 after being pushed back in March by two weeks.

It was little more than a formality — the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to sign off on the choice of Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli as the county’s newest representative on the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.

Foppoli, 38, has served as mayor of Windsor since 2018 and had won the post in 2020 in the town’s first direct contest for the seat. In February, he emerged as the top choice for the Golden Gate Bridge District appointment among the nine local city councils.

The Board of Supervisors’ role was to affirm that choice.

But as the vote neared, supervisors had caught wind of a forthcoming, damaging news report on Foppoli, four members of the five-person board told The Press Democrat.

Still, on Tuesday they proceeded to unanimously approve Foppoli’s appointment to the district, making him one of three representatives sent by Sonoma County to sit on the 19-member board.

Then on Thursday morning, the news broke: Four women had come forward with detailed accounts in the San Francisco Chronicle accusing Fopppoli, a local winemaker and Cardinal Newman High School graduate, of sexual assault over a 16-year period dating back to 2003. The time frame covered nearly the entire arc of his political career, from his first run for state Assembly while still in college to just two years ago, when he was appointed mayor by Windsor council members for the second time.

The report sparked immediate and widespread calls from local lawmakers for Foppoli to step down as mayor of Sonoma County’s fourth-largest city. The five county supervisors, many of them lamenting their bridge district vote, echoed that call.

“We’re in a very different place than just a general rumor mill or even an unsubstantiated allegation,“ Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, the board chair, said in an interview.

Hopkins said she regretted a previous endorsement of Foppoli and her vote to advance his appointment to bridge district board of directors. She and the other four supervisors called for that appointment to be rescinded. Late Thursday, she said the county had legal grounds to do so on its own.

The vote to appoint Foppoli on Tuesday was unopposed. Only Foppoli’s name appeared on the prepared documents. The Board of Supervisors acted as no more than a rubber stamp for the choice put forward by the Mayors and Councilmembers Association of Sonoma County, Hopkins said.

She and other supervisors insisted they had little basis to intervene, with little understanding about the weight of the bombshell report.

But four board members had at least some word that storm clouds were gathering around Foppoli. In interviews on Thursday, supervisors Chris Coursey, David Rabbitt, James Gore and Hopkins all said they had, at various times in the weeks and days leading up to Tuesday’s board meeting, heard rumor of a damaging news story brewing in local political circles.

Hopkins had heard it was about Foppoli, she said, but was unable to learn anything concrete and did not see cause to postpone the appointment, which had already been delayed once last month.

“I heard a rumor that there was a story about Dominic,” she said. “I was completely unaware of the nature of the allegations and how serious they were. It was just a rumor. There’s a lot of rumors in politics and many of them don’t turn out to be true.”

“It sounded negative,” she said.

The rumor came to her through other elected officials, she said, but she declined to name them. Supervisors were originally slated to appoint Foppoli to the bridge board on March 23, along with another already-delayed appointment to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. That position had three candidates, including Victoria Fleming, the Santa Rosa councilwoman who would eventually be chosen. Hopkins delayed the appointments to allow Fleming to attend and avoid a scheduling conflict with the council meeting, she said.

“I tried to find out more about things in the interim two weeks and I couldn’t come up with anything,” Hopkins said. “I didn’t know what reporter it was. I didn’t know what news outlet it was.”

Speculation had existed “for months,” Hopkins said, “but nothing had happened.”

“I didn’t know that it was allegations of sexual assault,” she said.

The Golden Gate Bridge District is an influential body that oversees the Bay Area’s most iconic toll bridge as well as ferry and bus service. For Foppoli, it was his first chance at a governing post beyond Windsor.

The nominating entity, the Mayors and Councilmembers Association, needed to put forward only one name and in that vote Foppoli had an advantage. His lead rival was a newly elected Rohnert Park councilman, Gerard Giudice, who was chosen as mayor by his colleagues last year upon his victory.

In that head-to-head Feb. 11 vote, cast by the nine mayors as proxies for their councils, Gerard had support from his city, Santa Rosa and Cotati. Foppoli claimed the rest and the nomination. His name was the only one forwarded to the county for approval.

Voting against Foppoli at that stage would have put the board in unknown territory, Hopkins said. With the rumors about the news story so vague, she and other supervisors signaled that they each came to the conclusion separately not to interfere with the vote.

Coursey, a former Press Democrat columnist and reporter, said that about two weeks ago he heard a rumor from a community member that a story would come out about Foppoli. He did not know what the subject would be, he said. “I didn’t have any real information to base it on,” he said.

“I was hearing this on the grapevine,” he said. “Who knows how many people removed from the original. I put it in my back pocket and went forward.”

Rabbitt said around a week ago he heard rumor of a story, but also did not know the topic or the extent of it. Rabbitt understood the story might have involved workplace harassment. “It was in that genre but there were no details,” he said.

Gore also said he had heard rumors of a news story. “I didn’t know what was coming,” he said.

By Monday, however, Foppoli did.

On that day, the Chronicle reporters shared with him details about the assault allegations, offering him a chance to respond in an interview which he turned down, according to the newspaper’s report. Foppoli’s lawyer has denied the assault allegations on his behalf.

Gore faulted Foppoli for not withdrawing himself from the transportation district process.

“The confounding thing with this is that if you read this article he knew that this was coming and didn’t alert anybody,” he said.

Instead, Foppoli accepted the appointment on Tuesday via video conference with a warm speech in which he cited the Golden Gate bridge as a symbol of hope for his Italian immigrant forebears.

Gore, whose district includes Windsor and who has closer ties with Foppoli than his fellow supervisors, on Thursday said it was another reminder to people in power that they needed to be more alert to wrongdoing by those in leadership.

“What I’ve always heard about Dominic,” Gore said in an interview, “was always this side of ’Is he a playboy?’” he said.

“Sitting in my position, we have to dig deeper into the people we put into power,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. “I endorsed Mayor Foppoli for his position on the Windsor Council. In learning about these stories, he should step down from representing the community that he has deeply hurt. I hold myself accountable for not digging deeper into his personal behavior before endorsement, and commit to doing deeper diligence in the future.”

Supervisor Susan Gorin said she did not learn about an impending story before Tuesday’s vote. “Had I known that this story was coming out I would have not voted to appoint him to the Golden Gate District,” she said.

The allegations were poised to be a point of discussion for the Mayors and Councilmembers’ Association at its regular meeting Thursday. But the group canceled that meeting in light of the allegations and all eight other mayors signed a statement calling on Foppoli to resign.

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or andrew.graham@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @AndrewGraham88

<strong id="strong-d39ab9b30d3c6e5aacf723590f9c1570">Resources for survivors of sexual assault</strong>

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

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

Verity: 707-545-7273

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673

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