‘Shock, disgust, revulsion:’ Condemnation follows sexual assault allegations against Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli
Explosive allegations of sexual assault involving Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli ignited a political firestorm Thursday that drew a chorus of calls for his immediate resignation and triggered an investigation by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.
Foppoli, 38, a well-known local politician and vintner whose star was on the rise, watched it fall abruptly after the San Francisco Chronicle published a detailed account of four alleged assaults involving different women over a 16-year period.
Those accusing Foppoli of sexual assault included a young woman whom he dated after she volunteered for his 2003 state Assembly campaign, a student he met at a junior college dance class, a woman he knew through the Active 20-30 Club and a French intern at Foppoli’s family-owned Christopher Creek Winery.
Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said late Thursday his office had launched a formal investigation after the Town of Windsor — which contracts with the Sheriff’s Office for policing services — asked his agency to open the probe.
“Here we have someone who is a trusted leader, a council member, a business owner and these are very serious and troubling allegations,” Essick said. “If we’re able to substantiate these allegations, this is criminal conduct and there are some severe consequences.”
First elected to the Town Council in 2014, Foppoli remained incommunicado Thursday, his Facebook page taken down and his cellphone going directly to voicemail. He did not respond to repeated requests for an interview Thursday, though it was clear he was monitoring text messages.
His attorney, Bethany Kristovich of Los Angeles, told the Chronicle on Wednesday that Foppoli “categorically denies having engaged in any of the abuses described.”
Contacted on Thursday by The Press Democrat Kristovich said, “As I’m sure you can imagine, Mr. Foppoli has been kind of buried with calls and emails this morning.” She added she was not authorized to release a statement on her client’s behalf.
Foppoli ousted from civic groups
The allegations led to Foppoli’s immediate ouster from several civic groups, including the Active 20-30 Club and Leadership Santa Rosa, a Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce leadership development program that accepts a limited number of participants each year.
All five Sonoma County supervisors, the mayor of every other city in the county, three state legislators and two of his three fellow Town Council members also called for his removal.
Councilwoman Esther Lemus, on social media, said Foppoli should resign as mayor immediately “in order for our Town to continue to function properly.”
Veteran Councilman Sam Salmon similarly said that “it was pretty obvious” that the council should ask him to resign. “Really the only action we can take immediately would be to ask Dominic to resign, and I think that would have to be at a council meeting,” Salmon said.
Longtime council member Deb Fudge, who had back surgery Thursday, was not available for comment, but wrote on Facebook before her procedure that she was “troubled, confused and shocked/surprised by what I read this morning.”
Town Manager Ken MacNab released a statement saying the town was “aware of the shocking and horrible allegations that have been made against Mayor Foppoli” and said they had been referred to the Windsor Police Department for further investigation.
He said the town also was “in the process of evaluating its duties and options under the circumstances.
“The conduct described in the article published by the San Francisco Chronicle is not acceptable nor does it reflect the values or standards we hold ourselves to as a community,” the statement read. “We ask for the community’s trust that the allegations are being taken seriously and that appropriate actions will be taken in response.”
At least three candidates vying for election to the town council seat Foppoli left open when he was elected mayor last fall also are seeking his removal.
Mayors demand resignation
The mayors of Sonoma County’s other eight cities all signed a statement demanding Foppoli resign from the town council “and all other elected and appointed positions and roles held with special districts and regional boards.”
That would include his new post representing the county on the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District, an appointment he won Tuesday when the Board of Supervisors advanced his nomination by the group of local mayors. Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, chair of the board, described on Facebook experiencing “shock, disgust, revulsion, the return of a particular pit in my stomach, and sadness and sorrow for the assault survivors” as she read the accounts of Foppoli’s accusers.