While embattled Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli still clings to his seat despite facing numerous allegations of sexual assault, at least one company he invested in last year fell apart last month.
On April 8, the day the San Francisco Chronicle first published four womens’ allegations about Foppoli, politicians and companies raced to distance themselves from the now-toxic politician. Among them was Whitestar Security Group, a Santa Rosa-based company in which Foppoli invested between $100,000 and $1,000,000 last year, according to a financial disclosure he filed on April 1.
While interviews with two of the company’s founders indicate that the growing company faced internal problems for at least the past six months, it was the Chronicle’s investigation into Foppoli that led to the company’s sudden death—and the loss of an as yet unknown number of jobs for its employees.
Whitestar Security Group was formed last May after a group of young professionals approached Mark Adams, a 55-year-old private investigator with a background in law enforcement. Clayton Taylor, a former Teamsters organizer, came to Adams with a proposal to form a new security company using Adams’ state security license. Taylor’s business partner, Brandon Rojas, a former employee of the homeless services nonprofit St. Vincent de Paul, would offer the new company insight into working with local homeless care providers.
Adams agreed to allow the new company to use his state security license. He also agreed to let the new company, Whitestar Security Group, use the name and branding of his longstanding, but entirely separate, private investigations company, the Whitestar Group.
A combination of the company’s focus on compassionate care for homeless clients, its well-connected founders and a global pandemic which increased demand for the company’s services made Whitestar Security Group something of a quick success. In the first year of business, the company landed contracts with two nonprofits and the Sonoma County Department of Health Services.
In interviews, Taylor and Adams’ accounts of the company’s internal problems differed in some regards. However, both acknowledged that there had long been tensions at the company. Late last year, Adams informed the company’s board and investors that he planned to revoke his security license from the company in June 2021.
When the Foppoli story finally did break in early April, the company’s clients began to flee, and Adams decided to pull his security license at the end of April instead of in June.
Taylor, who managed the company’s day-to-day business, says he was left with the task of informing dozens of employees that they would lose their jobs within 48 hours. Some of the company’s 70-or-so employees have been hired by other security companies who picked up Whitestar’s contracts, but many were suddenly left unemployed, Taylor says.
“The employees had no idea who the investor was because he wasn’t involved [in day-to-day operations]. There wasn’t one job site that he [Foppoli] showed up to,” Taylor told the Bohemian.
In an interview, Adams said that he gave the company’s founders ample time to apply for their own state security license. But, because they never did so, the company was left to scramble when the Foppoli story broke and Adams decided to pull his license earlier than originally planned.
Trauma Informed Care
Taylor says he partnered with Rojas, who worked for St. Vincent de Paul for two and a half years, with the idea of building a socially-conscious security company by combining Taylor’s background as a security manager and Teamsters organizer with Rojas’s experience working for a homeless service provider.
In addition to paying their workers better than the industry standard, Taylor says the company planned on training its employees in “trauma-informed care” to improve the services the guards provided to people experiencing homelessness and other clients.
Late last year, the company lined up two contracts with the Sonoma County Department of Health Services. Under the larger contract, records obtained by the Bohemian show, Health Services paid Whitestar a total of $439,680 between Dec. 7, 2020, and April 30, 2021 to provide security services at two local hotels which the county purchased to offer shelter for people experiencing homelessness during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The county contract called on Whitestar to provide three unarmed security guards at Hotel Azura in downtown Santa Rosa, and the Sebastopol Inn on the outskirts of Sebastopol. If things ever got particularly dangerous, Whitestars’ guards were expected to call on the nearest law enforcement agency to manage the situation, according to the company’s contract with the county.
Jennielynn Holmes, Catholic Charities’ chief programs officer, says that the nonprofit hired Whitestar without a bid last year as the nonprofit scrambled to meet the increased demand for services caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jack Tibbetts, the executive director of St. Vincent de Paul, the former employer of Rojas, says Whitestar was selected to provide security services at St. Vincent’s Los Guilicos encampment after the nonprofit conducted a competitive-bidding process.
Tibbetts, who also serves on the Santa Rosa City Council, acknowledges he’s a friend of Rojas but insists he followed proper procedures when it came to hiring Whitestar.
When the Foppoli story broke, both Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul immediately replaced Whitestar with other security companies in an effort to distance themselves from the unfolding scandal. Emails obtained through a public records request show that Taylor and the Sonoma County Department of Health Services amended Whitestars’ contracts to end on April 30, the day Adams revoked the company’s license.
When Rojas left Santa Rosa to join the Navy late last year, Tibbetts served as his proxy on Whitestar’s board in February and March. Tibbetts says that he was not paid by Whitestar and that he received permission from St. Vincent’s board of directors to serve as Rojas’s proxy.
He resigned from his position at Whitestar on April 6, two days before the Chronicle published its first story about the allegations against Foppoli.
On March 26, Adams filed paperwork to form a new security company, Whitestar Protection Group, in order to start the process of creating a new security company after he revoked his license from the company in June.
When the Foppoli story broke, Adams says he approached Rob Muelrath, a local political and public relations consultant, for advice about how to distance his pre-existing Whitestar Group from the Foppoli-backed Whitestar Security Group. Muelrath, who runs Muelrath Public Affairs, has a long list of clients, including many local politicians.
Adams says that after talking to Muelrath and Tibbetts during the past month, he offered both men positions on the board of his new company due to Muelrath’s business acumen and Tibbett’s knowledge of the local system of care for the homeless.
Muelrath and Tibbetts both confirmed that Adams offered them positions at the company, however both say they have not responded to Adams’ offer.
In an email, Tibbetts said he hasn’t had time to fully consider Adams’ offer or to receive legal advice about whether working for the company might conflict with his position on the Santa Rosa City Council.
“At this point, I have not signed anything. I am not a partner, and I have accepted no compensation,” Tibbetts said.