In California: Wine country mayor pressed to resign after sexual assault allegations

Pacific Theatres' Cinerama Dome is located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Plus: Should politicians facing recalls see who signed the petition against them? COVID kills L.A.’s ArcLight Cinemas. And some high school sports return.

I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs with all the headlines to start your week.

In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.

A Northern California mayor is pressed to resign after sexual assault allegations

Dominic Foppoli, mayor of Windsor, Calif. (Photo:

A small town about an hour north of San Francisco has been roiled by an investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle into sexual assault allegations against its mayor.

More than a dozen elected leaders — including the mayor of every other city in Sonoma County — have called for the resignation of Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli.

According to the newspaper, “every colleague on the town’s elected council and the North Bay’s two congressional representatives” are saying Foppoli should step down because they don’t think the young winemaker can continue to lead in the wake of charges brought by four women.

The claims, which relate to incidents that purportedly took place between 2003 and 2019, were said to be alcohol-related and ranged from groping to rape.

“These multiple, corroborated accounts suggest a pattern of predatory sexual misconduct that is deplorable and totally unacceptable,” Reps. Jared Huffman of San Rafael and Mike Thompson of St. Helena, both Democrats, wrote in a joint statement. “It is not possible for Mr. Foppoli to credibly or effectively continue serving on the Windsor council. We call on him to resign immediately.”

In a denial published Saturday by The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Foppoli called his colleagues’ rush to judgment “cowardly” and attributed the Chronicle’s allegations to “a reporter who has had a well-sharpened axe to grind against me for years.”

He also claimed to have had sexual relations with the wife of a Windsor County Councilperson — alleging that others had as well — and said this woman had threatened to ruin his political career if he ever exposed their dalliance.

“If I have done anything wrong, I would accept responsibility and I would resign,” he wrote. “But I have not.”

Proposed law to let politicians facing recalls see who signed petition advances in Sacramento

People participate in an effort to get enough signatures to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom during a rally at Westfield Palm Desert, January 17, 2021. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)

Should politicians facing a recall be allowed to see who signed the petition to have them removed from office? They would under proposed legislation that cleared its first committee in Sacramento on Monday. 

If passed, the measure would take effect next year — meaning it would not apply to the expected recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom this fall. 

Those in opposition to the proposal say it would discourage people from signing future petitions out of fear of retaliation. “This is a dangerous and reckless bill,” said Orrin Heatlie, the lead proponent of the Newsom recall. “It would stifle the process.”

However, State Sen. Josh Newman, the bill’s author, sees it differently. “It is a fundamental tenet of the American justice system that the accused should always have the right to face his or her accusers,” Newman, a Democrat, said during a public hearing before the Senate elections committee.

Newman, who represents parts of Orange and other counties, was recalled in 2018 before winning his seat back last November. He says the proposal would allow politicians to make sure voters weren’t duped into signing petitions and let them explain to voters how to withdraw their signatures if they choose to.

CIF-SS gives green light to postseason playoffs for most high school spring sports

Jordan Sprinkle makes a play on defense for Palm Desert during the Desert Empire League baseball championship at La Quinta High School, April 25, 2019. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)

The California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section released some positive news on the high school sports front Monday, announcing there will be a postseason for most sports being played this spring.

“Due to recent changes to the California Department of Public Health guidelines for youth sports, we are excited to announce that we are prepared to go forward with section championships for the following team sports,” said the organization, the governing body for high school sports in Southern California.

Said sports included baseball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ soccer, softball, boys’ and girls’ team tennis, boys’ volleyball and boys’ and girls’ dual meet wrestling. The statement said specific dates and locations for postseason play will be “coming soon.”

That change in the CDPH guidelines relates to a lessening of the restrictions on travel between counties for youth sports contests. Teams can now travel to play a contest between two schools in any of the eight counties in the Southern Section.

Individual sports, such as golf, swimming, individual tennis and track and field, have not yet been given the green light for postseason get-togethers.

Knott’s Berry Farm announces reopening plans

Knott’s Berry Farm’s Boardwalk area is filled with rollercoasters and thrill rides.
Lynn Lieu/The Desert Sun

Here is some additional good news for Southern California, this time for families in search of fun: Knott’s Berry Farm announced Monday it will reopen May 6 for season passholders and on May 21 to the general public.

The Buena Park theme park, located in northwestern Orange County, which has been closed for more than a year through the pandemic except for special outdoor events, will celebrate its 100th anniversary with an array of new attractions. The centennial celebration will continue through Sept. 6.

Capacity will be limited as is the case with all theme parks under the state’s guidelines, with only Californians admitted at this time with reservations.

Season passes bought last year and this year through May 5 will be valid through May 5, 2022.

COVID killed L.A.’s ArcLight Cinemas

In not-so-great news, Los Angeles-based movie theater chain Pacific said Monday that it will not reopen its locations, including its ArcLight Cinemas.

2002: George Clooney and his parents, Nick and Nina Clooney, at the premiere of "Solaris" at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California. (Photo: Kevin Winter, Getty Images)

“After shutting our doors more than a year ago, today we must share the difficult and sad news that Pacific will not be reopening its ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres locations,” the company said in a statement. “This was not the outcome anyone wanted, but despite a huge effort that exhausted all potential options, the company does not have a viable way forward.”

The popular ArcLight Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard is home to the Cinerama Dome, which opened in 1963 and has long been considered a Los Angeles landmark.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Pacific Theatres “is the latest victim of the COVID-19 pandemic that wrecked the theatrical exhibition industry.”

A spokesman for Pacific and ArcLight declined to provide further comment.

California border crossing crash update: Driver slowed or stopped before crash killed 13 migrants, report says

Investigators work the scene of a two vehicle crash that killed at least 13 people on Highway 115 near Holtville, Ca., March 2, 2021. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)

The driver of an SUV packed with migrants stopped or slowed before getting slammed by a tractor-trailer in one of the deadliest border-related crashes in U.S. history, according to testimony released Monday.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report includes the first published account of the driver of a tractor-trailer, who survived the March 2 crash.

The SUV had a stop sign, while the tractor-trailer did not. Both roads had a speed limit of 55 mph. “According to the truck driver, the SUV stopped or slowed to a near stop at the stop sign, then accelerated onto (State Highway 115) in front of the combination vehicle,” the report said. “The driver of the combination vehicle applied the brakes and skidded until the front of his vehicle collided with the left side of the SUV.”

This appears to settle the question of whether the SUV driver blew through the stop sign or slowed. The crash remains under investigation.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times, The Press Democrat, San Francisco Chronicle. We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow with the latest headlines.

As the philanthropy and special sections editor at The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraising and people who give back in the Coachella Valley. Reach him at [email protected]

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