State watchdog opens investigation into Dominic Foppoli as former rival alleges political misconduct
California’s campaign finance watchdog has opened an investigation into former Windsor mayor Dominic Foppoli’s political spending just as the town’s newest council member said Foppoli sought to buy her exit from the 2020 mayoral campaign with donations to charities of her choice and an offer to help secure her a government appointment.
Rosa Reynoza said Foppoli sought to entice her out of last year’s competitive field by offering to open up his campaign war chest for the donations if she did not run.
The offer came in a late June 2020 meeting at a coffee shop across from the Town Green, Reynoza said in an interview Thursday with The Press Democrat.
Foppoli, a two-term councilman who was the appointed mayor at the time, cited his prodigious campaign fundraising and ability to spend heavily on Windsor’s inaugural mayoral campaign as he sought to muscle Reynoza out of the race, Reynoza said.
Foppoli told her she “didn’t have a chance to win because of how much he was going to spend,” she said. (He would go on to amass more than $91,000 for the campaign, far eclipsing all other candidates combined).
Foppoli also offered to help Reynoza secure an appointment on a government board or commission, she said.
Foppoli did not respond Thursday to a request for comment about the new state investigation or the meeting described by Reynoza.
A few days after the meeting, Reynoza turned down both offers she alleged came from Foppoli, sharing a text message that she said showed her response to him at the time.
“After much thought I have decided to continue on my path to run and let the voters decide on Nov. 3rd,” she wrote to Foppoli after the meeting, according to a screenshot of the July 3, 2020 text that she provided The Press Democrat.
Reynoza spoke to one person about the meeting, who suggested she should consult a lawyer, Reynoza said, but she never did so. Her account would be her word against Foppoli’s, she said, and she wasn’t certain there was anything illegal about the offer.
Donating campaign funds to most charities is legal, according to California campaign finance expert Bob Stern, who helped write state law on the subject. Nor is it illegal for one politician to try and muscle another out of a race by citing a larger war chest, he said.
“What’s not legitimate in my mind is to give a (financial) inducement,” to someone to drop out of a race, Stern said. He did not know if offering a commission appointment would qualify as such an inducement.
Reynoza, 49, came in second to Foppoli, losing by 1,600 votes in the November 2020 election, where he spent about $90,000 compared to her $12,200. Six months later, Reynoza, a four-time candidate for Windsor office, was elected in May to the council in a special contest to fill the seat left vacant after Foppoli’s mayoral win.
Foppoli is now two weeks out from his resignation as mayor and facing criminal investigations into public allegations of sexual assault, abuse and misconduct made against him by nine women.
At the same time, scrutiny is mounting over his past campaign spending and fundraising — the subject of an anonymous complaint last month to the state’s political watchdog alleging Foppoli used campaign cash for personal expenditures.
That agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, announced Thursday that it has opened an investigation into the allegations raised in the complaint.
And the Windsor Town Council, in an emotional hearing Wednesday focused on choosing Foppoli’s replacement, announced it is exploring campaign finance restrictions for future races as it confronts mistrust from residents.
Foppoli, 39, has denied the sexual assault and misconduct accusations made against him and said all his campaign spending was above board.
The Fair Political Practices Commission wrote Foppoli on Tuesday to inform him its enforcement division had opened an investigation “regarding your committee’s potential violations” of campaign finance law.
The division will investigate the contents of an anonymous April 26 complaint made with the agency about Foppoli’s spending and fundraising.
Foppoli previously told The Press Democrat he had responded to the complaint with a “detailed response with receipts down to the penny for every item.” All his spending was “completely legal, allowable, and fair,” Foppoli wrote in a May 28 email. He has declined so far to share that response and state officials have declined to confirm they had received one from him.
Investigators have not reached any conclusions, Angela Brereton, the chief of the commission’s enforcement division, wrote to Foppoli, but may be contacting him to “discuss the matter.”