California Wine Country Mayor Resigns Amid Cloud of Sexual Assault Claims

The decision comes a month after the mayor of the sleepy burg of Windsor said he would step back from his duties but defiantly declined residents’ calls to resign.

An art installation in downtown Windsor, California. (Town of Windsor Facebook page via Courthouse News)

(CN) — At least one part of the saga involving Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli appeared to come to a close Friday, as the embattled leader of the California Wine Country town resigned amid allegations of sexual assault. 

Foppoli said he was resigning with a “heavy heart” after additional sexual assault allegations came to light Friday, including a woman filing a police report in Palm Beach, Florida, this week accusing him of sexual assault during an encounter in the Sunshine State two months ago. 

The mayor continued to deny wrongdoing in a written statement released Friday. 

“I have always and will always maintain that I did not engage in any nonconsensual sexual acts with any woman,” Foppoli wrote in a statement announcing his resignation. 

He said his latest accuser has only come forward after she learned of other allegations against the mayor. 

“I have no doubt she is making these allegations in an attempt to leverage the situation to her advantage,” he said. 

Foppoli is currently under investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office, with seven women accusing him of sexual assault. 

One of the accusers is Esther Lemus, who also serves on the town council, and who reported Foppoli drugged and assaulted her on two occasions. Lemus also serves at the Sonoma County deputy district attorney, which is why prosecutors have turned over the investigation to state officials. 

The scandal began after an investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle into claims by four women accusing Follopi of forcible kissing and unwanted groping after nights of drinking, mostly at the mayor’s family winery. 

Rose Fumoso says she was a 21-year-old intern at another winery when she met Follopi at a party at his winery. He asked to show her his car and instead drove her away to a secluded place, where he began kissing and groping her despite her protestations, Fumoso told the Chronicle. 

Sophia Williams says she shared a cab home with Foppoli after a night of drinking and was surprised when the driver dropped them both off at Foppoli’s house. After promising her a separate bed, Foppoli jumped into bed with her and began groping her, Williams said. She escaped through a bathroom window and fled to a strange neighborhood, where she had a friend pick her up. 

Allison Britton says Foppoli forced her to perform oral sex at a conference in Reno in 2012 after a night of drinking that reduced her to a semiconscious and inebriated state. She says she was too intoxicated to consent. 

A 35-year-old woman who chose to remain anonymous says Foppoli raped her twice as they were breaking up when she was 18. 

None of the women reported the incidents immediately after they occurred.  

Foppoli has denied the allegations, calling it a political hit job and citing “social machinations.” Last month, he pleaded with Windsor residents to allow him to continue and do his job. 

But he capitulated Friday, saying his resignation was not an indication of guilt but rather a move to deflect unwanted negative national attention on the town of Windsor. 

 “I do not want undue national attention to have a negative impact on the Windsor community because of the lawful but poor decision I have made in the recent past,” Foppoli wrote Friday. 

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