California AG to review sex assault allegations against Windsor mayor

Disgraced Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli continues to cling to office as the California Attorney General assumes a criminal review of his conduct.

On Monday, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch turned to the AG's office due to a conflict of interest with her department.

That's because one of the six women claiming sexual crimes against Foppoli works as a Sonoma County prosecutor.

She is Esther Lemus, who is also a Windsor town council member.

Lemus has alleged two instances in which she says she was drugged and sexually assaulted, incidences involving Foppoli.

"The town is grieving, this is not something any of us saw coming," said Debora Fudge, a council member. "I call it a firestorm and he is at the center of all of it."

Fudge has been a political mentor to Foppoli, but says now, "there's another side none of us saw."  

Expressing anguish, she continued, "I never expected this, we are heartbroken and we will support our colleague Esther in any way that we can, it's incomprehensible."

Foppoli has denied all allegations against him and insists they are politically motivated. The allegations were first reported last week after a months-long investigation in the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Further, he claims Lemus has used her seniority on the council to sexually abuse and silence him.

The clashing accusations will be the backdrop for a special meeting of the Windsor Town Council at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Fudge expects the council to demand that Foppoli resign, and if he refuses, formally censure him to limit his powers.

The council could also signal support for a growing recall movement, which would put Foppoli's removal to a public vote.

"We have more than 500 households already signed up to be a part of this and those are Windsor households," said recall organizer Tim Zahner, who has lived in Windsor for 14 years.

Recall paperwork could be filed with the county elections department by the end of the week, leading to petitions being circulated for signatures, potentially leading to a recall election.  

"Dominic was raised by his family in a community that taught him right from wrong and he should do the right thing and resign," said Zahner. "It's very hard to govern a town when it's completely in an uproar, angry, frustrated, scared and worried."

In the five days since the allegations emerged, community protests have popped up, demanding Foppoli's ouster.

People have demonstrated at busy intersections, the Town Green, at Foppoli's house, and his vineyard.

Over the weekend, his brother Joe Foppolo said Dominic Foppoli had been stripped of his stake and management role in their co-owned Christoper Creek Winery.   

Some of the alleged assaults occurred at the Healdsburg property.

"Everybody's got their right to due process in a court of law but this is a political situation," said Sonoma County Supervisor Chris Coursey.

Coursey, as Santa Rosa mayor during Sonoma County's 2017 firestorm, worked alongside Foppoli in emergency response and recovery.

But he and other elected officials are unanimous in declaring Foppoli unfit to lead.

"Sooner or later he's going to be gone, and the sooner he gets out on his own, the better for all of us," said Coursey. "He would do himself and his community a favor if he would resign right now."

Foppoli did not respond to inquiries on Monday, and no one answered the door at his Windsor home.