Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli’s political career may have come to a sudden end due to a San Francisco Chronicle investigation published this morning.
The lengthy article quotes four women—three of them named in the article—who allege that Foppoli sexually assaulted them between 2003 and 2019. The investigation, which appears to have taken months to complete, has understandably raised concern throughout the North Bay. In the hours after the piece was published, politicians and political groups, many of whom endorsed Fopolli’s recent run for mayor, have condemned Foppoli’s alleged actions and called for his immediate resignation.
Foppoli’s attorney “categorically denied” the paper’s allegations in a statement on Wednesday, according to the Chronicle.
The investigation has also caused the Santa Rosa Press Democrat—and, yes, this paper as well—to scramble to cover the unfolding story. Hours after the Chronicle published its piece this morning, the Press Democrat published an article summarizing the findings of the San Francisco paper’s investigation.
The problem is that at least some of the allegations against Foppoli were reportedly quite well-known, at least to his fellow councilmembers and some parts of the broader Sonoma County community. According to the Chronicle, one of Fopolli’s alleged victims sent a letter in late-2017 to then-Windsor Mayor Debora Fudge outlining her experience with Foppoli.
Numerous readers on Facebook commented on the Press Democrat’s article, alleging that the Santa Rosa paper knew of the allegations against Foppoli years ago but chose not to publish an article. Some pointed out that one of Chronicle reporters, Alexandria Bordas, previously worked for the Press Democrat.
The authors of the Chronicle article did not immediately return a request for comment on the allegations circulating on social media.
In an interview on Thursday afternoon, Richard Green, who took over as executive editor of the Press Democrat in February, told the Bohemian that Santa Rosa’s daily paper heard last week that the Chronicle was working on an article about Foppoli.
Green dismissed the comments on social media about the paper squashing the story as “crazy allegations” and said that the Press Democrat is “close to nailing some aspects of [the story]” after starting to report on the issue last week.
“I wasn’t here in 2019, and I’ve spent more time focused on what we need to tell our Sonoma County readers today than I have been on what unfolded two years before I arrived in Santa Rosa,” Green said in a separate written statement.
“I tip my hat to The Chronicle today – but only today,” Green said in reference to being scooped by the San Francisco paper.
Following Green’s comment to the Bohemian on Thursday afternoon, the Press Democrat’s editorial board, which endorsed Foppoli’s run for Mayor last year, published an article calling for the embattled politician to resign immediately. The article acknowledges that Bordas did work on a piece about Foppoli during her time at the paper.
“Alexandria Bordas, one of the Chronicle reporters who broke the story, first investigated allegations against Foppoli while she was working at The Press Democrat. Her editors determined that the information wasn’t solid enough to publish and let the story drop,” the editorial states in part.
Whether or not the Press Democrat knowingly suppressed the story for political reasons, the roll out of the allegations against Foppoli seems to have been taken by many readers as the latest example of Sonoma County’s insular political and media culture. All too often, a damning story is covered by Sonoma County media only after it is broken by an out-of-county outlet or following a groundswell on social media.
One of the most recent cases occurred when a blog post by the Sonoma County Alliance (SCA) sparked outrage in the early days of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. Only then did the Press Democrat, whose parent company Sonoma Media Investments was a member of the influential business group along with numerous local politicians and public officials, start to run critical articles about the SCA’s influence in the county.
Here’s hoping that more information about who knew what—and when—about the allegations against Foppoli comes out soon now that the Press Democrat seems to be racing to save face by chronicling what may be the fall of Foppoli.