Complaint calls into question Dominic Foppoli’s campaign payments to his girlfriend, winery chief financial officer


State election officials received a complaint that former Windsor mayor Dominic Foppoli, who resigned this month after the Chronicle investigated sexual assault allegations, violated laws on sexual assault. campaign finance by paying a girlfriend and a winery executive thousands of dollars and spending other funds improperly during his six years in office.

The anonymous complaint, filed April 26 with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, pointed out Foppoli’s alcohol and travel spending, as well as a range of contributions it accepted from developers whose projects were preparing for a vote in city council.

The law enforcement division of the commission – an independent, bipartisan agency that enforces campaign ethics laws – has not yet determined whether it will open an investigation into the allegations and has not timeframe for reaching the decision, agency spokesman Jay Wierenga said.

The complaint details 10 cases of potentially problematic spending and fundraising ranging from 2014, when Foppoli was first elected to city council, to 2020, when he was running for mayor. The allegations cite $ 3,496 in payments to Amy Holter, a former girlfriend of Foppoli who worked on his campaigns, and $ 6,075 to Elisa Lawson, who served not only as campaign treasurer, but also as CFO of Christopher Creek Winery. , which Foppoli co-owns.

The Chronicle asked three campaign finance experts, including a former FPPC chairman, to review the complaint. They said the allegations appeared to merit investigation, calling campaign spending reported by Foppoli “very unusual” and “strikes” for a candidate in a small town.

Although the complaints are publicly available and therefore can be politically motivated, experts said the commission should inquire further, given that Foppoli did not provide detailed explanations of the spending in its funding reports. countryside.

“They are all of concern,” said Ann Ravel, who chaired the FPPC from 2011 to 2013, of the allegations made in the complaint. “There seems to be a pattern of spending that could be very questionable.”

Foppoli, Holter and Lawson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Windsor officials accepted Foppoli’s resignation on May 24, after nine women accused the mayor of sexually assaulting them. Although Foppoli denied the allegations, they opened up a wider discussion about Foppoli’s conduct as an elected official in the Sonoma County town of 27,000.

Vineyard owner from a wealthy local family, Foppoli entered city politics in 2014 with an aggressive development philosophy. Known for bringing new business to the city, Foppoli also drew the attention of some residents to how money funding his political rise influenced city decisions.

Foppoli’s resignation would not preclude an investigation into campaign ethics, Wierenga says: The agency is investigating campaign funding issues even when the target of the complaint has left office, he said declared.

At least two law enforcement agencies – the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and the Palm Beach, Florida Police Department – have opened criminal investigations into allegations of sexual assault against Foppoli.

The charges were first exposed in an April 8 Chronicle investigation that detailed the accounts of four women, who said Foppoli sexually assaulted them in incidents of groping, rape and non-consensual oral copulation between 2003 and 2019. Five other women have since come forward. with their own allegations against the North Bay politician.

Chronicle Investigation: Dominic Foppoli

Windsor officials last month called on prosecutors to open a grand jury investigation into “Foppoli’s willful or corrupt misconduct in office.”

Because the campaign spending complaint was sent to the commission by an anonymous person, it carries slightly less weight than a complaint signed by someone who wants to identify themselves, Wierenga said. There is no deadline for the commission to determine whether to consider an anonymous complaint, while signed complaints must be reviewed on merits within 14 days, with possible extensions.

This story will be updated

Alexandria Bordas, Cynthia Dizikes and Julie Johnson are editors of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] Twitter: @crossingbordas @cdizikes @juliejohnson

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