Sheriff’s Office opens investigation into Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli following sexual assault allegations
Four women have accused Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli of sexually assaulting them, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.
The allegations, which span a 16-year period dating back to the beginning of the 38-year-old vintner’s political career, sparked immediate calls for Foppoli to step down as mayor of Sonoma County’s fourth-largest city. By Thursday afternoon, that roster included all five county supervisors, the mayor of every city in the county, at least one Windsor council member and a growing number of state legislators and city officials.
“Given the severity and specificity of the allegations against Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli there’s only one option — he needs to resign immediately. Mr. Foppoli has caused tremendous pain and trauma with his appalling and disgusting behavior,” state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said Thursday on Twitter.
Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said late Thursday his office had launched a formal investigation into the allegations. Essick, top supervisors and sexual assault investigators began discussing how they might open a probe after the Chronicle story broke Thursday morning. By late afternoon, they had met with the District Attorney’s Office and Windsor Police Chief Ruben Martinez, who said the council had formally asked him, and therefore the Sheriff’s Office — which contracts with Windsor for policing services — to investigate Foppoli.
“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.”
Essick said that as a father of a 21-year-old daughter, the story hit home. And as the sheriff, he wanted to assure anyone thinking about coming forward to report their experience that they would be treated with respect, and offered confidentiality and anonymity. Essick encouraged anyone with information to come forward either to his office, the District Attorney’s Office or the Family Justice Center. He commended the women for speaking out.
“These people are brave, these people are heroes, and they’ve gone through a trauma and we want to assure we will respect them,” Essick said.
The Town of Windsor referred the “shocking and horrible allegations” to the Windsor Police Department for investigation and is evaluating both its duties and its options, according to a statement issued from the office of Town Manager Ken MacNab.
“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.”
Foppoli could not be reached immediately for comment by The Press Democrat. His attorney, Bethany Kristovich of Los Angeles, said Thursday she was not authorized to issue a statement on his behalf.
Kristovich told the Chronicle on Wednesday that Foppoli “categorically denies having engaged in any of the abuses described.”
The first alleged assault occurred in 2003. An 18-year-old volunteer on Foppoli’s campaign for state Assembly said he pressured her to drink alcohol for the first time and raped her twice at a house party, the Chronicle reported.
The second allegedly occurred in 2006. A woman who met Foppoli at a dance class said Foppoli attempted to have sex with her, despite her objections, after drinking at a nightclub, the newspaper reported. She locked herself in a bathroom to protect herself.
The third alleged assault occurred in 2012. A woman who encountered Foppoli at an Active 20-30 civic club meeting in Reno said he engaged in oral copulation with her while she was nearly unconscious and too drunk to consent, the newspaper reported.
The fourth allegedly occurred in 2019, when a winery intern said Foppoli forcibly kissed and groped her despite her objections.
In 2017, a person who had rented the guesthouse at his winery, Christopher Creek Winery, notified the town of another disturbing encounter with Foppoli. The person alleged Foppoli invited himself to dinner at the guesthouse in 2013, made two tasting room employees take off their underwear and wear “blanket togas,” and later tried to remove a guest’s bathing suit by the hot tub. In the email to then-Mayor Debora Fudge, obtained by The Press Democrat and the Chronicle through the California Public Records Act, the person alleged Foppoli had a “predatory nature” and had engaged in “abuse of power.”