In the summer of 2019, Rose Fumoso left her home in southern France to intern at a Sonoma County winery, where the 21-year-old greeted customers in the tasting room and assessed the ripeness of grapes from the vineyard. As the season wound down in September, a friend invited Fumoso to a party celebrating the end of harvest.
There, she met the host: Dominic Foppoli, the mayor of Windsor.
A small town in the heart of Wine Country, Windsor has transformed in recent years from a sleepy neighbor of Healdsburg to a tourist destination. Much of that rise has been credited to Foppoli, a young winery owner whose political star and push for development have attracted outside investments in the community.
It was evening when Fumoso arrived at the party at Foppoli’s Christopher Creek Winery, 4 miles north of downtown Windsor, on the outskirts of Healdsburg. She said yes when Foppoli, then 37, suggested she check out his car. At his invitation, she said, she sat in the white Tesla’s passenger seat.
Suddenly, they were moving. Fumoso said Foppoli drove them to an unfamiliar house. Once inside, she said, he grabbed her, forcibly kissed her and groped her buttocks while pinning her body against his own. Fumoso said she told Foppoli to stop, and tried to push him off, but his grip tightened. She said she repeatedly told him, “No,” but he didn’t listen.
Fumoso is one of four women who have told The Chronicle that Foppoli isolated and sexually assaulted them after nights of drinking. Reporters interviewed friends or family members who either witnessed some of the events recounted by the women or said the women had confided in them shortly after the alleged assaults.
The allegations follow the arc of Foppoli’s career, from his first bid for public office to his current seat as Windsor’s mayor:
In 2003, Foppoli dated an 18-year-old campaign volunteer while running to represent the North Coast in the California State Assembly, the woman told The Chronicle. She said that, amid their breakup, the young candidate pressured her to drink alcohol for the first time before raping her twice at a house party. The woman, now 35, said she had told Foppoli she was waiting for marriage to have sex.
In 2006, Sophia Williams split a cab with Foppoli after drinking at a nightclub with friends from a junior college dance class. She said she was surprised when the driver dropped them off at Foppoli’s house instead of taking her home, but that Foppoli offered her his bed, saying he would sleep on the couch. Instead, she said, Foppoli got into the bed, thrust his groin against her buttocks and tried to remove her pants as she told him, “No.” To escape, she said, she locked herself in his bathroom for hours before fleeing the home early the next morning.
In 2012, Allison Britton attended a conference in Reno for a civic club to which Foppoli also belongs. After hours of drinking alcohol, Britton said she became extremely and visibly inebriated, prompting a friend to suggest Foppoli walk Britton back to her hotel room. He instead brought Britton to his room, she said, and served her more alcohol. She said he then engaged in oral copulation with her when she was too intoxicated to consent and nearly unconscious.
In addition, in 2017, when Foppoli was vice mayor of Windsor, a person who had rented the guesthouse at Christopher Creek Winery four years earlier wrote a letter to the mayor alleging Foppoli had a “predatory nature” and had engaged in “abuse of power,” according to emails obtained by The Chronicle through the California Public Records Act.
The complainant — whose name Windsor officials redacted — said Foppoli invited himself to the guesthouse, where he directed two young female winery employees to remove their underwear and wear togas, tried to remove at least one female guest’s bathing suit, and secretly topped off the guests’ wineglasses.
In a statement to The Chronicle on Wednesday, an attorney for Foppoli said the mayor “categorically denies having engaged in any of the abuses described.”
Reporters shared details of the allegations with Foppoli on Monday and requested an interview, which he declined. His attorney, Bethany Kristovich of Los Angeles, did not address the particulars of the women’s accounts in her emailed statement.
“Sexual assault and sexual misconduct are very serious issues, and Mr. Foppoli takes these allegations very seriously,” Kristovich said. “He has a long history of supporting women in his business, personal, and political lives, and the accusation that he has engaged in any of these misdeeds is deeply troubling. Mr. Foppoli prides himself on working to improve life for all of his constituents, and he will continue to maintain the fundamental value of treating everyone with respect.”
Shortly after this story published Thursday morning, some local lawmakers began calling for Foppoli’s resignation.
“Dominic needs to resign, or his voters need to remove him,” Chris Rogers, the mayor of Santa Rosa, wrote in a Facebook post. “I understand that everyone in this country is innocent until proven guilty, but these allegations are credible, specific, documented, and horrifying.”
Healdsburg Councilmember Ariel Kelly called on Foppoli to resign “immediately.”
“No political maneuvering because of his position. No non-answers because he denies it. Mayor Foppoli has to go,” Kelly wrote on her Facebook page. “And if he doesn’t, the Windsor Town Council should take the necessary action to remove him — immediately.”
In an emailed statement, Windsor Town Manager Ken MacNab said the town was “evaluating its duties and options.”
MacNab did not immediately respond to questions about what that process might entail, but said, “The allegations made against the Mayor are both shocking and horrible. The conduct described does not reflect the values or standards we hold ourselves to as an organization or as a community. We are taking the allegations seriously.”
None of the women who spoke to The Chronicle notified police or pursued legal action after the alleged encounters with Foppoli, saying they felt shame at the time and wanted to put the episodes behind them.
Some of the women said their pre-existing friendships with Foppoli left them more hesitant about going public. Foppoli’s deep connections in Windsor and wider Sonoma County further discouraged some of the women from reporting the alleged assaults, they said.
The Chronicle does not generally identify victims of sexual assault. But three of the four women who spoke to the newspaper agreed to be named in this story. The fourth, who lives in Windsor, spoke on the condition that her name not be used because, she said, she was not yet ready to share details of the encounter with her adolescent children. The women said they do not know each other.
The Chronicle has spent months looking into the women’s allegations against Foppoli, who is unmarried and has lived in Windsor for more than 30 years. In addition to interviewing friends, family members and witnesses, reporters reviewed social media messages, contemporaneous journal entries, and other documents that supported or were consistent with the women’s accounts.
Two friends who attended the September 2019 party with Fumoso said they searched for her after she disappeared with Foppoli. They said they were devastated when she later told them Foppoli had assaulted her. Instagram messages from Foppoli to Fumoso show he repeatedly invited her to drink alcohol with him and spend time together following the alleged attack.
The allegations come at a time when Foppoli is both solidifying power in Windsor and realizing political ambitions beyond the town. First appointed mayor by the Town Council in 2018, Foppoli was given a two-year term by voters in November’s inaugural mayoral election.
Last year, Foppoli was elected second vice president of the Mayors and Council Members Department at the League of California Cities, which advocates for cities’ interests across the state. Just this week, Foppoli was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District to represent Sonoma County’s half-million residents in the operation of the bridge and the district’s bus and ferry services.
At the same time, Foppoli has cultivated a national reputation leveraging his status in the wine community. In 2015, he appeared on Steve Harvey’s NBC talk show, proffering Cabernet Franc from Christopher Creek Winery, while competing with other bachelors for the title of Mr. California.
In 2018, a television special on CBS referred to Foppoli as “prince of the Wine Country.” And last year, the mayor co-starred with celebrity chef Guy Fieri in a web series about local restaurants navigating the pandemic.
“I think if all mayors poured wine for people who are upset, you’d get through a lot of problems quickly,” Foppoli told a North Bay publication in the run-up to his victory in the 2020 mayoral election. “Hard to stay mad at your mayor when he keeps pouring you wine.”
Three of the four women who spoke to The Chronicle said Foppoli, who is now 38, held what they considered to be a position of influence in their lives when he assaulted them. The women said that Foppoli’s political ascent, and the increasing possibility that he would hold power beyond Windsor, made them willing to publicly share their allegations for the first time.
Fumoso shared her account at the time with two other interns who attended the party. But she said she did not immediately tell many other people about what had happened, even after she returned to France in October 2019.
“I wanted to tell who did that to me,” Fumoso said, “but I was too afraid because he was the mayor.”
Just north of San Francisco, California’s Wine Country unfolds in rolling vineyards that draw tourists and locals alike. This is a place of marquee geographies: Napa, Sonoma, Healdsburg, St. Helena. It is also a place of names: families who have turned their fertile plots of land into wine for generations.
The Foppoli family’s estate sits off a two-lane road south of downtown Windsor, a mile north of La Crema’s famed Saralee’s Vineyard. Dominic Foppoli, one of four children, traces his family’s winemaking roots back to his great-grandfather, who emigrated from Italy more than 100 years ago.
Growing up, Foppoli’s ambitions stretched beyond helping to run the family business. After graduating from Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, he began college at Dominican University of California in San Rafael and joined the College Republicans.
“Several of my mentors wanted me to move out of Sonoma County to a more Republican friendly area,” Foppoli would later tell the Sonoma West Times & News. “But I wanted to stay in Sonoma County and change things.”
Foppoli launches a campaign for the California State Assembly, running as a Republican.
In 2003, while still in college, Foppoli launched a campaign for the California State Assembly. At 21, his image was one of conservatism: a Republican. A businessman. A Catholic.
“California cannot afford politics as usual,” Foppoli said on his campaign website, topped with a photo of him shaking hands with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was elected governor in 2003. “It is time for a new breed of legislators.”
These were the values that prompted an 18-year-old woman from Windsor to volunteer for Foppoli’s campaign that September. Her family knew the Foppolis through church, according to the woman and her younger sister, who also volunteered for the campaign. The woman said that during her first meeting with Foppoli, he told her she would be his personal assistant.
But in a series of interviews, the woman, now 35, described the ensuing months working for Foppoli as ones that would upend her life.
A woman who said Foppoli raped her in 2004, when she was 18, holds a journal in which she described the alleged assault.
The Chronicle spoke with the woman’s sister and now-husband, whom she confided in around two weeks after the alleged assault. In separate interviews, both confirmed that the woman shared details of the encounter consistent with the account she provided The Chronicle. Reporters also reviewed a personal, handwritten journal the woman kept at the time.
Early in her volunteering, the woman said, she was attracted to Foppoli and impressed by his ambition. They started dating at the end of November 2003.
Because of her Catholic faith, she said she told Foppoli at least two times that she was waiting for marriage to have sex. But Foppoli ignored her boundaries almost immediately, she said, removing her clothes and touching her breasts and genitals, even as she told him to stop. On one occasion in his bedroom, Foppoli digitally penetrated her without her permission and despite her objections, she said.
“I haven’t had the same peace of mind I once did,” she wrote in her journal on Dec. 15, 2003, describing what she said was her distress over her relationship with Foppoli. “It only comes when I sleep. Confussion (sic) and anxiety have been my constant companions. I can’t seem to escape them.”
Around Dec. 27, the woman said she broke up with Foppoli. He asked her to take some time to think about it, she said. Then, on Dec. 31, she said he called her and begged her to go on one last date to ring in the New Year. She agreed.
That night, the woman said, she went to dinner and several house parties with Foppoli and two of his friends. When the clock struck midnight at the final house, she said, Foppoli and his friends pressured her to drink Champagne. She had never had alcohol before.
The woman said Foppoli continued to hand her shots of hard alcohol, which she drank. Although hesitant to drink at first, she said that as she began to feel more intoxicated, she drank more and lost track of how much alcohol she had consumed.
Foppoli then took her into a dark bedroom where he shut the door, the woman said. There, she said, Foppoli started removing her clothes as she pleaded with him to stop.
A former campaign volunteer for Foppoli said that he sexually assaulted her while they were dating and then, amid their breakup, raped her twice.
“I asked him not to pull off my skirt & nylons when he tried,” the woman wrote in her journal a week later. “I clutched my skirt trying to hold it at my waist line and even told him I was on my period only to have him feverishly reply he didn’t care.”
Foppoli then raped her, she said, as she lay panic-stricken: “My brain and my body weren’t in the same place,” she said in an interview. “I couldn’t move.”
Afterward, the woman said, she threw up over the side of the bed onto the floor, covered herself with blankets and fell asleep. Sometime later, she jolted awake, feeling pressure on her vagina and pelvis. To her horror, she said, Foppoli was raping her again.
“I felt sick mentally, emotionally, physically, and especially spiritually,” she later wrote in her journal. “I wanted to go somewhere deserted and just run as fast as I could, fall on my knees and scream … ‘Why’? And cry my heart out!”
The next morning, as Foppoli drove her home in silence, she didn’t mention the alleged assault, she said, because she was still reeling from it. The woman said she was shocked that Foppoli didn’t apologize or acknowledge that anything had happened. When she confronted him about it days later, she said, he brushed it off, saying he had been drinking before he picked her up that night.
Years later, in 2018, as the #MeToo movement empowered women to speak publicly about sexual assault and harassment, the woman posted in a Facebook group of Windsor families with nearly 8,000 members. At the time, Foppoli was vice mayor of Windsor.
A #MeToo comment a former campaign volunteer for Foppoli posted in a Facebook group for Windsor families, and private messages Foppoli sent her in response. Blurring and redactions were made to protect the woman’s identity. Chronicle composite from handout images
“I can tell you firsthand Foppoli is not a man of integrity,” the woman wrote. “I volunteered for him when he ran for state assembly in 2003. … He should not be vice mayor of our town. #metoo.”
On Oct. 25, 2018, three days after her post, Foppoli sent her a private message, which The Chronicle reviewed. He wrote that the Facebook comment had upset his mother and sisters, and asked her to remove it.
“If you want to talk about our past I’m happy to sit down with you or talk on the phone but please don’t post negative things publicly,” he said. “I love our town and am sincerely doing my best to keep it the amazing family oriented place it is today. We were young and made poor decisions together all of those years ago and I regret that we let things go as far as they did.”
Foppoli apologized for later being “an immature asshole to your husband,” and said he had heard her family was doing well. “I strive to now be a strong catholic man for my nephews and nieces to look up to and I don’t want them to be upset about things they read online about their uncle,” he wrote. “If you could find it in your heart to forgive and forget the negativity of our past and take down your comment it would mean the world to my family and I.”
The woman did not respond to his message, nor did she remove her Facebook comment.
She told The Chronicle that she did not go to the police in 2004 because she was young and didn’t know that was an option.
“You don’t see date rape for what it is, because it’s someone you know, so you don’t react the same way,” she said. “And so for me, I was just in this state of blaming myself, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this was such a terrible situation. How is it that he was my ride home?’ ”
Foppoli loses the Republican primary.
She said she told Foppoli she was leaving the campaign, but stayed after he insisted that she remain through the election. She said she experienced emotional trauma every time she saw him. In March 2004, she left to spend four months at a Catholic retreat center for women in Indiana to put distance between her and Foppoli.
That month, Foppoli lost the Republican primary.
Sophia Williams plays with her children at their home near Windsor in February.
The Sonoma County Republican Party elects Foppoli second vice chairman. He works in the Bush White House as an unpaid intern for about two months.
By 2005, the Sonoma County Republican Party had elected Foppoli to be the second vice chairman of its executive committee, making him, at 22, the youngest person to hold the position at the time.
He had caught the eye of party leaders by spearheading a successful get-out-the-vote drive before the prior year’s presidential election, and had attended the GOP convention in New York City as a California delegate. Following a speech by then-President George W. Bush’s twin daughters, Foppoli told The New York Times he hoped to date one of them.
“They’re hot,” he said.
Foppoli loses his bid for Windsor Town Council.
Soon after, Foppoli graduated from Dominican University with a bachelor’s degree in politics. He began fundraising for a run at Windsor’s Town Council, officially launching his campaign in 2006.
That spring, Foppoli also took a dance class offered at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma campus. There, he met 21-year-old Sophia Williams.
Williams said she became friends with Foppoli and a handful of other classmates, who spent Sunday evenings dancing together at a salsa club in the East Bay.
But as the weeks went by, classmates became concerned with Foppoli’s dance etiquette, Williams and another woman, Hannah Shapiro, told The Chronicle in separate interviews. Most of the male dancers had learned how to hold proper dance position with their female counterparts: one hand on the ribcage, the other clasped in their partner’s hand.
But when the women danced with Foppoli, Shapiro said, “It was just hands all over you, and when you said, ‘Can you stop?’ he just wouldn’t listen. He literally just did whatever he wanted.”
Sophia Williams said Foppoli sexually assaulted her at his home in Windsor.
One evening, Williams and Shapiro said they went out dancing and drinking at the Seven Ultralounge club in downtown Santa Rosa with a group from the class, including Foppoli. At the end of the night, they divided into taxis.
Williams lived in Santa Rosa at the time and said that she and Foppoli, who lived in Windsor, were in the same cab. She expected to be dropped off first, she said, since they were already in her city. When the cab stopped, she said, she jumped out, thinking they were at her home. Foppoli got out, too.
As Foppoli paid the cabdriver, Williams said, she realized they weren’t at her apartment. “I was like, ‘Oh shoot, we forgot to hit my house,’” Williams said. Foppoli then told her that they were at his home. “And he was like, ‘It’s fine, let’s just crash here, and we’ll get you home in the morning,’ ” Williams said.
Williams said Foppoli offered her his bedroom, saying he would sleep on the couch. She settled into the bed. But minutes later, she said, Foppoli slid in next to her.
The Chronicle spoke with two friends of Williams, including Shapiro, who said she told them in the following weeks about what had happened. Both corroborated details of her account.
Williams said she told Foppoli to leave, but he wouldn’t. She moved to the edge of the bed, against a wall, as far from him as she could get. But Foppoli slid over, she said, trapping her between his body and the wall as he thrust his groin against her buttocks and tried to kiss her neck.
She said she pressed her ear to her shoulder, blocking his mouth, and said that she told him, “No, Dominic, we are not doing this.” Instead of stopping, Williams said, Foppoli wrapped his arm around her waist and slid his finger down the front of her pants.
“When he did that, I didn’t want to see what’s next,” Williams said. “He was not listening to me.”
She broke free, she said, climbing over Foppoli, running into the bathroom and locking the door.
In California, a person can be charged with misdemeanor sexual battery, which is a type of sexual assault, for touching another person’s buttocks, groin, breasts or genitals against their will with the intent of achieving sexual arousal or gratification, according to the state Penal Code and current and former California county prosecutors who spoke to The Chronicle.
In 2006, the statute of limitations for pursuing such a crime was one year.
Williams said Foppoli knocked on the bathroom door for several minutes, apologizing, but she didn’t feel safe coming out. She called a friend, Sophia Ficarra. When Ficarra didn’t answer, Williams said, she opted to sleep on the bathroom floor.
A few hours later, Ficarra called back and offered to pick Williams up. Williams said she ran out of Foppoli’s house without stopping. It was around dawn when Ficarra found Williams waiting under a streetlight, according to both Williams and Ficarra, who also spoke to The Chronicle.
They drove back to Santa Rosa, speeding along Highway 101. “She was obviously very disturbed,” Ficarra said.
Ficarra asked Williams whether she wanted to go to the police. Williams said she refused because she considered Foppoli a friend. But from then on, she said, she tried to avoid dancing with or talking to him in class. She made it clear to her friends in the group that they should no longer invite Foppoli out.
At the time, she said, she didn’t know he was running for office.
By October of 2006, Foppoli had raised the most money of any of the seven candidates for Town Council — $19,005 in cash contributions, which included $10,000 of his own money, according to news reports at the time.
But about a week before the election, the Sonoma West Times & News ran an article suggesting Foppoli had lied about his professional experience on his resume and in public comments.
The paper reported that Foppoli had given inconsistent accounts about his time working in the Bush White House in 2005. Depending on the venue — a job application, a campaign event, a candidate forum — Foppoli had variously described his D.C. job as a “policy analyst/advisor” for the Presidential Office for Drug Policy; a liaison between the White House and local governments; a member of a D.C. gang task force; and a promoter of California wine “south of the border.”
When asked to clarify the conflicts, Foppoli told the Times & News he filled all these roles during his stint on staff at the White House.
A representative for the White House Office of Security told the paper that Foppoli had never been a staff member; rather, she said, he had been an intern for just over two months.
Foppoli told the newspaper that he hadn’t meant to mislead anyone: “Foppoli insists that his contradictory and his admittedly vague statements can be chalked up to youthful enthusiasm, and a sincere desire to serve his community,” according to the article. His internship, Foppoli confirmed to the Times & News, was unpaid.
He lost his bid for Town Council.
Williams said that after the dance course ended, she never saw Foppoli in person again. More than a decade later, on Oct. 3, 2018, Williams referenced the alleged assault and two other, unrelated assaults in a #MeToo post on her Facebook page.
A Facebook post by Sophia Williams, who uses her husband’s last name, Henderson, on social media. Chronicle composite from Facebook screenshots
“I never feared for my life,” she wrote. “My life isn’t altered because of them. Yet I still feel anxious, warm, tearful when I think of them.”
In describing the night with Foppoli, Williams recounted how he had tried to kiss her and remove her pants without her consent: “He wasn’t scary or mean. He was laughing, calling me a flirt, telling me it would be ok.
“ ‘Funny’ enough,” she wrote, “he’s in politics.”
Allison Britton, shown at a park in Windsor, said that during a convention in 2012, Dominic Foppoli sexually assaulted her in a hotel bathroom.
In the years after his council defeat, Foppoli dug into the family business, launching a series of wine and beer ventures.
In 2010, he earned a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in wine business from Sonoma State University. That year, the North Bay Business Journal named Foppoli one of its “Forty Under 40,” citing his management of the family winery and support for other vineyard and winery owners.
In 2012, Foppoli and several business partners opened Old Redwood Brewing Co. in downtown Windsor and purchased Christopher Creek Winery. The winery, which sits atop a hill on 11 acres of Syrah and Petite Sirah vineyards along the eastern edge of the Russian River Valley wine region, boasts award-winning bottles and panoramic views.
“My brother and I are the fourth generation in this country, and our great-grandfather started doing it in 1906 when he immigrated from Italy,” said Foppoli of his roots in winemaking, during a promotional video at Christopher Creek. “It’s kind of in the blood at this point.”
Foppoli also began to receive recognition as a philanthropist and bachelor. He had joined Active 20-30, a civic and social organization for young adults that fundraises for underprivileged children. And a production company approached him about filming a dating reality show for Bravo. Foppoli declined, he told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat in March 2012.
“Eventually the right girl will walk through the door looking for wine, and end up with something more,” he said.
Allison Britton said Foppoli sexually assaulted her in a Reno hotel room when she was too intoxicated to consent.
Three months later, Foppoli, then 30, sat down next to Allison Britton at a bar at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno. They were both staying at the Peppermill for Active 20-30’s national convention, Britton told The Chronicle.
Active 20-30 has dozens of clubs across the U.S. and Central and South America. In the U.S., the organization admitted only men until the late 1980s, when women were granted full member status, according to the group’s website. Foppoli is a member of the Santa Rosa club, which is one of the oldest Active 20-30 clubs and which remains all-male. Britton, then 27, had joined the newly formed Sebastopol club in 2011.
Britton, who now lives in Santa Rosa, said she had met Foppoli at North Bay club events at least three times prior to that night in 2012. During one of their conversations, she said, he had commented on her appearance.
“He took my glasses off my face and said things like, ‘You’d be so much prettier if you wore contacts,’ and asked why I dressed a certain way,” Britton said.
She said she considered Foppoli obnoxious, but harmless. So Britton didn’t think anything of it when Foppoli approached her on June 20, 2012, at the casino bar, where she was playing a tabletop poker machine.
Britton said she had arrived at the casino late that afternoon with a group of Active 20-30 members. They had drunk gin in the car on the way there, and had continued drinking heavily at the casino: Champagne, beer and shots of hard liquor, Britton and another woman in the group, Samantha Mineo, said in separate interviews.
As she played the poker machine, Britton said, she realized she was very intoxicated. The room kept sliding out of focus, and her fingers slipped on the buttons of the game.
Mineo, who was sharing a hotel room with Britton during the convention, said she noticed that Britton was struggling to stand, swaying from left to right. It was “physically obvious to anyone who was around that she had too much to drink,” Mineo said.
Mineo said she asked Foppoli to walk Britton back to the women’s hotel room. He agreed. But Foppoli instead took Britton to his own room and invited her in for a glass of Chardonnay from his winery, Britton said.
Foppoli poured her drinks from a label-less bottle, Britton said, as his roommate, fellow Active 20-30 club member Dana von Sternberg, slept in a bed nearby. Britton said she became so inebriated that she recalls only a portion of what happened next, with gaps in her memory.
She said she remembers suddenly being aware that she was on her knees in the bathroom of the hotel room. She doesn’t know how she got there. She said she was topless and that Foppoli was standing over her with his penis in her mouth.
“It scared the f—ing hell out of me,” Britton said. “I kind of looked around and thought, ‘What the f—, how did I get here?’ ”
Britton said she pulled her head back and instantly felt that Foppoli had taken advantage of her. In an effort to quickly end the encounter, she said, she told Foppoli to “finish himself off.” She said he asked if he could ejaculate on her chest, to which she responded, “Fine.”
“I didn’t want to cause a big scene,” Britton said. “The bathroom door was open and his roommate was there.”
Britton said she then passed out across Foppoli’s bed and slipped out a few hours later, before Foppoli and von Sternberg woke up.
“When people are in that intoxicated of a state, then it’s not consent,” Britton said. “If I can’t play a f—ing poker machine, how can I make a wise decision about my body or health? How do you have real body autonomy if you can’t even move your body right?”
Under Nevada law, a person can be charged with a felony sexual assault for engaging in oral sex with a person who is too intoxicated to give consent, according to the state Penal Code and prosecutors who spoke to The Chronicle. In 2012, Nevada law required that a police report be filed within four years of an alleged assault to make a criminal case eligible for prosecution.
The Chronicle spoke to four people in Active 20-30, including von Sternberg and Mineo, who said Britton later confided in them about the alleged assault. Each said that details of the account Britton shared with the newspaper were consistent with what she had shared with them.
Rachel Mason, a friend and fellow member of the Sebastopol club at the time, said Britton told her the day she returned from Reno in June 2012. Both von Sternberg and Andy Bain, who became president of the Santa Rosa club in 2013, said Britton told them about a year after the alleged assault.
In addition, Heather Leslie, a past member of the Auburn (Placer County) club, said Britton referenced the alleged assault in 2018 but did not share details.
Leslie told The Chronicle that she had witnessed concerning behavior by Foppoli during a different Active 20-30 event. While at a pool party in Palm Springs, Leslie said, she saw Foppoli try to leave with another female club member who was visibly drunk before other people intervened. Leslie was unable to identify any of the other party-goers to The Chronicle.
The behavior “was kind of a known thing, a terribly kept secret about Dominic Foppoli,” Leslie said.
In Reno, Britton returned to the hotel room she shared with Mineo in the early morning hours, Mineo said. “She just looked like she was about to throw up,” she said, “and she looked paler than normal, like she had seen a ghost or something.” Mineo recalled that Britton said, “I was with Dominic, and it wasn’t good.”
Mineo said she was disturbed by Britton’s response and asked if she wanted to talk, but Britton told her no. Britton was worried about her reputation; Foppoli was a more prominent member, she said, and belonged to a more established club.
In late November 2013, Britton shared her account with Bain, who was then the president of Foppoli’s club, following an Active 20-30 regional meeting in the small Sonoma County community of Cazadero.
Britton had become upset at the meeting after von Sternberg made a joke about her having “hooked up” with Foppoli, both Britton and von Sternberg recalled. They said Britton immediately began sobbing as she told him the encounter had not been consensual.
“She was crying, inconsolable,” von Sternberg recalled in an interview. “I felt so horrible making that joke, not knowing that it wasn’t consensual.”
In a separate interview, Bain said he confronted Foppoli roughly a week later at Christopher Creek Winery. Bain said he asked Foppoli about the alleged assault and told him to consider stepping down. Foppoli told him that the encounter had been consensual, and dismissed the suggestion to resign, Bain recalled.
At the time, Bain said, Foppoli was well regarded in the community as an up-and-coming leader with political and business connections in Wine Country.
Bain said he then consulted a past Santa Rosa president about the situation. He said they discussed formally removing Foppoli from Active 20-30 for violating the club’s policy on “good moral character.” But Bain said the process would have required identifying Britton to the board, which he felt uncomfortable doing.
“It threw me off, so I struggled with whether to go to the board,” said Bain, who ultimately did not report the incident. In hindsight, Bain said, he wished that he had gone over more options with Britton for filing a complaint herself.
“I should have been more assertive,” he said. “Dominic had a lot of power at the time, and I feel a lot of guilt about that.”
Jason Balatti, the current president of the Santa Rosa club, said in an email Tuesday that he was not authorized to make statements on behalf of Active 20-30, “nor do I have a personal statement to make about the matter at this time, other than to say that the misconduct reported is utterly unacceptable, that I stand with the victims of these abuses, and that I am inspired by the courage of the victims in speaking out at this time.”
Roger Hebert, who is the president-elect of the Santa Rosa club and will take office in July, said he became aware of the allegations on March 29, when Bain told the club’s board about both the alleged assault and an upcoming Chronicle article.
Hebert said the club is weighing what, if any, action to take against Foppoli. “We have high moral standards,” Hebert said. “Anything is absolutely on the table.”
In February 2014, about three months after Bain said he confronted Foppoli about the alleged assault, Foppoli launched another run for the Windsor Town Council.
Foppoli is appointed to the Windsor Planning Commission, overseeing the town’s development projects.
Since his last attempt, he had built his political resume, and some of his key investments had started to pay off.
In 2013, then-Vice Mayor Bruce Okrepkie — an alum of the Active 20-30 Santa Rosa club — had appointed Foppoli to the Windsor Planning Commission, overseeing the town’s development projects. Foppoli’s brewery in Windsor also had received media attention as one of several new businesses drawing Wine Country tourists to town.
On Nov. 4, 2014, Foppoli won a council seat.
Foppoli wins a seat on the Windsor Town Council.
“This has been a childhood dream of mine, to serve and be an elected official,” he told a crowd of supporters as results rolled in on election night.
He was 32, the youngest council member in the town’s history.
A sign greets visitors to Windsor.
Foppoli quickly became known as a champion of development, helping to secure multimillion-dollar housing projects. As part of an ambitious downtown redesign, he also helped land a new civic center, along with a luxury hotel and slew of new restaurants, all slated to be built in the next several years.
His entrepreneurial spirit seemed to rejuvenate a town that had long sought prominence in Wine Country.
Foppoli is appointed vice mayor of Windsor.
As a council member in 2016, Foppoli helped close a deal with the Russian River Brewing Co. — maker of the famed Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger ales — to open a massive production facility and brewpub in Windsor. Russian River’s original location in Santa Rosa had become an international landmark among beer devotees, who arrived every year by the thousands, pumping millions of dollars into the local economy.
Christopher Creek Winery was also taking off, having become a featured stop on Sonoma County wine tasting tours and a popular spot for industry parties.
In 2016, Foppoli’s fellow council members appointed him vice mayor. He later switched his political registration to the Democratic Party, which has more of a foothold in Sonoma County and the rest of the North Bay.
But as Foppoli’s influence grew, so did concern in local circles about his behavior with women.
Rachel Mason — one of the friends Britton had confided in — submitted a list of “Top 10 20-30 Hookup Mistakes to Avoid” to Active 20-30’s unofficial newsletter. In February 2017, it was circulated to hundreds of current and past members. The No. 1 “hookup mistake to avoid” was Dominic Foppoli.
Mason said she wrote the list to support Britton and to protect other women from Foppoli.
“It was published right before the (Active 20-30) midterm convention in Petaluma that year, so I knew he’d be there,” Mason said. “I was hoping to warn women of his predatory nature.”
Then, on Nov. 20, 2017, Windsor Mayor Debora Fudge received the email complaining of Foppoli’s alleged misconduct toward women who had rented the guest house at Christopher Creek Winery in the spring of 2013. Foppoli was vice mayor at the time and, per council tradition, was widely expected to be appointed mayor in December.
A copy of a 2017 email alleging sexual misconduct by Foppoli in 2013 was provided to The Chronicle with redactions. He denied the allegations. Read the documents at DocumentCloud.org. Chronicle composite of Windsor documents
“I cannot stay silent when a molester rises in social and political rank,” said the complainant, whose name Windsor officials declined to provide, and whom The Chronicle could not identify. The person added, “Several of us were very upset and shaken by the violation we felt at his hands and the pressure to accommodate him as the owner of the winery we were staying at.”
An email sent to then-Mayor Debora Fudge details alleged sexual misconduct by Foppoli toward women who had rented the guest house at Christopher Creek Winery four years earlier.
The email alleged that Foppoli invited himself to the house for dinner along with “two girls that were working his tasting room” whom he made “wear blanket ‘togas’ and take off their underwear.” To “signify he was staying past his welcome,” the guests left the dining room and went outside to relax by the hot tub, the complainant wrote. Foppoli followed the women outside, the email said, and turned off the lights.
“As soon as the lights went out he told everyone to look up at the stars and proceeded to try to remove my friend’s bathing suits when everyone was distracted by him telling us to look up,” the email stated. “I also remember him slyly filling up people’s glasses with more wine so that we lost count of how many drinks we had. It was choreographed so well, it seemed like he had pulled this stunt many times before.”
Reached in front of her home in Windsor on Tuesday, Fudge declined to speak with reporters about the complaint or other allegations made against Foppoli.
In addition to Foppoli, The Chronicle sought comment from two co-owners of Christopher Creek Winery. Neither responded to phone or social-media messages.
The Chronicle this week asked Foppoli about the complaint, but a statement provided by his attorney did not address the specific allegations. In a Nov. 29, 2017, email to the town manager responding to the complaint, Foppoli said he “adamantly” denied doing anything improper.
“I want to apologize to my fellow Council members,” he wrote, “for putting them in the position of having to address these ancillary concerns that are of a private character, concerning a dispute that relates in no way to the Town’s business, that did not occur within the Town’s jurisdiction and before I was elected.”
Three women — one who identified herself as a marketing coordinator at Christopher Creek Winery, another who said she was a girlfriend, and a third who said she was a longtime Windsor resident and Foppoli’s childhood friend — wrote to council members in separate emails to vouch for his character.
At a council meeting on Dec. 6, 2017, Foppoli said he wanted to defer becoming mayor for a year. He pointed to his other professional and philanthropic obligations. The council voted unanimously to extend his term as vice mayor.
The Town Council appoints Foppoli mayor of Windsor.
A year later — and about a month after Sophia Williams and Foppoli’s former campaign volunteer shared #MeToo posts about him online — Foppoli won re-election to the Town Council. On Dec. 5, 2018, four of the five council members voted to appoint Foppoli mayor of Windsor.
Pausing with emotion, Foppoli accepted the mayorship. He brought his hand up to his face, a “little bit choked up,” he said.
Seven months later, on July 1, 2019, Rose Fumoso arrived in Sonoma County as part of a three-month internship program through her university in Toulouse, France. She was eager to learn winemaking techniques from the vintners at a winery outside Healdsburg, while living with a local family in Windsor.
Her friend and college classmate Simon Vaïsse had accepted an internship at Christopher Creek Winery that came with lodging at Foppoli’s four-bedroom home in Windsor. Both Fumoso and Vaïsse provided The Chronicle with documentation of their internships.
For years, Foppoli has rented out his home’s spare rooms to interns and other young volunteers, according to five former tenants. However, Vaïsse said he did not interact much with the mayor, who was often out of town and kept odd hours when he was home. At the winery, Vaïsse said he mostly worked with the winemaking and sales staff.
Rose Fumoso, an international intern at a Sonoma County winery, said that Foppoli sexually assaulted her during a party at his winery.
But in September 2019, Vaïsse said, Foppoli told him that he was hosting a party at the winery to celebrate the end of the harvest. “He asked me to invite many ‘pussies,’ ” Vaïsse recalled.
Vaïsse said he was taken aback by Foppoli’s language, but dismissed it as an inappropriate joke. He invited Fumoso and Julie Leglise, another friend and fellow intern, to the party. The Chronicle also confirmed Leglise’s internship. All three interns, who have since returned to France, spoke multiple times with reporters in separate interviews conducted over Zoom and WhatsApp.
Fumoso and Leglise told The Chronicle they arrived separately at Christopher Creek Winery. They said they grabbed glasses of wine and mingled with guests by the pool.
Foppoli then invited some of the party guests, including Fumoso, into the winery’s barrel room. Fumoso said that another person whom she didn’t know poured wine and passed glasses around. Vaïsse said he later walked into the barrel room and drank out of Fumoso’s glass.
Throughout the evening, Fumoso said, Foppoli tried to get her attention, asking her about France and her internship. At one point, Fumoso said, Foppoli bet her a bottle of wine that he knew how long it would take to walk between his house and the house where Fumoso was staying.
“He said, ‘Just five minutes is the distance,’ and said, ‘I am the mayor. I bet a bottle of wine if I am wrong,’ ” Fumoso recalled.
After drinking wine in the barrel room, she said, she went outside to smoke a cigarette when Foppoli again approached her, this time asking her to come see his Tesla, parked in front of the winery.
Fumoso said she did not feel threatened by Foppoli at this time. The Tesla was similar to a car her father owned and — much like him — Foppoli seemed giddy to show it off, Fumoso said. She got in, but was startled when Foppoli drove away from the winery.
Fumoso said she doesn’t recall if she said anything to Foppoli at that moment because she had begun to feel strange. Her movements felt slow and strained. She had drunk several glasses of wine, she said. But having grown up in a winery family, she knew how to limit her consumption so she wouldn’t become intoxicated.
Yet, she said, she was struggling to stay awake, her consciousness fading in and out as they pulled up to a house she didn’t recognize. Fumoso said she started to panic. Her next memory, she said, is of standing in a living room in the house.
Foppoli slid his arms around her waist and groped her buttocks, she said, while leaning in and kissing her. Fumoso said she pushed back and firmly told Foppoli, “No,” stating that she wanted to go back to the winery.
She said Foppoli ignored her, continuing to grope her and force her body against his. She said she became increasingly frightened and tried to push him away. “I keep pushing him and telling him to take me back to the winery,” Fumoso said. “And after that I don’t remember anything.”
Back at the party, Leglise told The Chronicle, she searched for Fumoso and repeatedly called her phone, but there was no answer. Leglise said another person at the party told her Fumoso had left with Foppoli.
Leglise said she placed her wineglass on the pool table in the winery’s guesthouse and then walked away to talk to friends. When she returned and reached for her wineglass, she said, a male guest hurried over to stop her from drinking from it. Leglise said the guest, without explanation, told her not to drink it and insisted that she pour it in the sink.
She did not know the man and was unable to identify him to Chronicle reporters. Leglise said she poured her wine out, but was too worried about Fumoso to think much of the warning at that moment.
Around the same time, Vaïsse told The Chronicle, he also began to feel strange and different than he usually felt while drinking. He said his thoughts were muddled, he was having problems focusing his eyes and his movements felt sluggish.
“I have never felt like that,” Vaïsse said. “I felt like I was drugged.”
When Fumoso returned to the party, Leglise said she rushed over to her. Fumoso “looked stoned,” she said, and pleaded with Leglise to help her find a place to take a shower. Leglise said she had known Fumoso for three years, but had never seen her act this way. She helped her friend into a bathroom at the guesthouse, shutting the door behind them.
Fumoso was undressing when Foppoli tried to open the door, Leglise said. “He was trying to give us a towel and he was just coming in,” she said. “We pushed him away because she didn’t want to see him.”
After Fumoso showered, the three interns left the party, Leglise said.
Fumoso said she began to regain awareness when she got back to the Windsor home where she was living, but didn’t immediately remember the details of the alleged assault.
Later that night, in the early hours of Sept. 12, Foppoli messaged her on Instagram: “It was fun meeting you this evening.” Fumoso shared the series of messages with The Chronicle.
Private Instagram messages exchanged between Foppoli and Rose Fumoso following the alleged assault. Chronicle composite from screenshots courtesy of Rose Fumoso
Foppoli then invited Fumoso to his house in Windsor for a glass of wine. Fumoso responded that she was in bed. Foppoli said he was in bed, too, and persisted. “I fly to Las Vegas tomorrow morning,” he said. “We only have one life.”
“And I only have one internship,” Fumoso wrote. “So I have to be perfect with my supervisor.”
“I can give you another,” wrote Foppoli, ending the message with a winking face emoji.
Fumoso said she tried to joke around to end the conversation, referencing the bet they had made earlier in the evening and saying Foppoli owed her a bottle of wine. Foppoli said they could meet up after he returned from Vegas. Fumoso did not respond.
Over the next two days, Fumoso said, she remembered how Foppoli had driven her away from the party and how he had forcibly groped and kissed her. She told Leglise and Vaïsse that the mayor had assaulted her, and that she couldn’t remember anything after she told Foppoli to stop.
In separate interviews with The Chronicle, Leglise and Vaïsse confirmed that Fumoso told them about the alleged assault in the days after the party.
Fumoso said she felt sick for days. Leglise, remembering the partygoer who insisted she throw her wine out, urged Fumoso to have her blood tested.
Leglise and Vaïsse said they accompanied Fumoso to a hospital in the area on Sept. 14, 2019. Fumoso provided The Chronicle with her hospital admission bracelet from that date. A doctor told Fumoso that too much time had passed to detect certain drugs in her system, all three interns recalled. Fumoso had the tests done anyway; the results were negative, she said.
To this day, Fumoso said she can’t prove whether someone put something in her drink. And if she was drugged, she doesn’t know who was responsible. She only knows that she had never felt like that before from drinking alcohol.
Fumoso considered reporting the alleged assault to the police. But because she was an international intern who did not understand the legal system, and Foppoli was a reputable local lawmaker, she felt authorities would dismiss her account.
In the final weeks of her internship, Fumoso said she was coping with near-daily panic attacks over the assault. She jumped whenever a white car –– the same color as Foppoli’s Tesla –– passed her on the street.
Foppoli messaged her again on Instagram. “We are partying tonight with great wine,” Foppoli wrote on Sept. 20. “You should come join us.” Fumoso did not respond.
After Fumoso and her friends left California in mid-October, Vaïsse said he told their school in an online evaluation not to send female students to Christopher Creek Winery. Fumoso said that once she returned to France, she sank into a period of depression.
“It never happened to me before to feel sad for so long,” Fumoso said.
Foppoli wins the inaugural election for mayor of Windsor.
Eventually, Fumoso said, she reached out to a therapist. After months of working together, she said, she began to open up about the fear she had felt that night with the mayor.
“Those moments,” Fumoso said, “when he didn’t seem to understand my ‘No.’ ”
About this story
Chronicle reporters Alexandria Bordas and Cynthia Dizikes spent months looking into allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli. They interviewed four women who said Foppoli had assaulted them in incidents that occurred between 2003 and 2019. The reporters also identified and interviewed people who said they had witnessed portions of the alleged encounters, as well as people whom the women said they confided in at the time. In addition, the journalists reviewed social media messages and other contemporaneous documents that were consistent with the women’s accounts. Beyond the specific allegations, reporters interviewed dozens of people who have known Foppoli professionally and personally, including former roommates, colleagues, friends and college classmates. They also reviewed lawsuits, business records and additional documents obtained through the California Public Records Act. To fully assess the allegations, the journalists consulted with county prosecutors and experts on sexual assault. Finally, the reporters made several attempts to interview Foppoli and to give him the opportunity to fully respond to the allegations made against him.
Note: This story contains graphic and detailed allegations of sexual assault that may be upsetting to readers and survivors of sexual violence. See resources
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