WINDSOR, Calif. - Disgraced Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli presided over a surreal town council meeting Wednesday, in which he cast a vote on whether he should resign.
He voted no, but the resolution passed 2-1.
As an elected mayor, Foppoli can ignore it and indicated he will.
"Let me continue to do my job, it's time to get back to work," he said as the meeting started.
It was the first time the public had seen or heard from Foppoli since he became engulfed in a widening sexual assault scandal.
He has previously issued defiant statements denying all allegations and continues to reject calls to step down.
"I have my head held high because I know deep in my heart that I have done nothing criminally wrong and will eventually be cleared," said Foppoli.
He urged residents to let the multiple investigations against him play out, but judge him on the job he's done as mayor.
"Do you walk around our beautiful town and love where we live?" he asked. "Do you love our clean well-maintained streets, do you love our amazing parks and rec programs?"
People at the virtual meeting, which quickly reached a Zoom capacity of 1,000 participants, fired back with anger. And they called him many names and accused him of many crimes.
"You're a rapist and everybody knew, it wasn't a secret," said one commenter, "there were rumors, whispers about it and then you dare show your face."
For more than two hours, residents expressed their fury.
"Resign, you rapist, these allegations are credible, they're multiple and they've been corroborated by lots of people," said one woman.
Foppoli has not been charged of any crime related to the allegations including rape, but the sheriff is now investigating the women's allegations.
Foppoli's political ascent crashed last week with the publication of a multi-year investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle, detailing sexual assault claims from four women over a 16-year period, all involving social drinking and all unreported.
"Sometimes it's shame and wanting to put it behind you and maybe you feel like you wouldn't be believed anyway," Foppoli accuser Sophia Williams has told KTVU. "Or maybe it's the alcohol factor, you just feel like you'd be blamed."
Williams was profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle report, describing an incident when she and Foppoli were in their 20's, long before he entered politics.
After a night of socializing with friends from a junior college class, she says her cab ride home ended up at Foppoli's house, where he said she could sleep alone, but got into bed with her and groped her.
Williams escaped and locked herself in a bathroom, eventually fleeing the house into an unfamiliar neighborhood and calling a friend to pick her up.
"I just distanced myself from him and my friend group who all went dancing," said Williams. "I just told them he's not welcome anymore and after our classes ended, I never saw him again."
Other women allege ongoing abuse during romantic relationships with Foppoli, including forcible rape.
In recent days, two more accusers have emerged, including Foppoli's town council colleague Esther Lemus, who did not attend Wednesday's special meeting, citing a conflict of interest.
"Given that I am a victim of sexual assault by Mayor Foppoli and am cooperating in a criminal investigation against him," said Lemus in a statement read by the town manager. "This is very personal and traumatic for me, therefore I shall not be in attendance."
Windsor residents have rallied publicly to support Lemus and the other women.
Officials throughout the region say Foppoli has lost all respect and the ability to lead.
Some who commented during the meeting said they had seen misconduct from him firsthand.
"I have had my butt grabbed by him, and I have seen some of the things people are referring to, and we just should have taken this more seriously," said one woman.
"I'm just so sorry to these women that I didn't come out sooner."
Foppoli listened quietly, even as commenters shared the pain of their own life experiences.
"You should make this easier for the rest of the victims in Sonoma County and please, please, please step down," said one sobbing survivor. "And if you don't I hope to God you hear my voice in your head every single day."
Foppoli was elected at-large in Windsor, a community of about 30,000.
The council cannot fire him, only censure him as a form of discipline, and like the public, plead with him.
"If you love Windsor as much as you say you always have, then you need to resign," said council member Debora Fudge tearfully. "Resign so we can move on and begin the healing."
Because Foppoli refuses and Town Council cannot force him out, a recall election is the only other option and has already attracted hundreds of volunteers.
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