Miss Sonoma County chief resigns office
Longtime Miss Sonoma County Representative Tony Geraldi, a regular at public events as an official escort for young title holders, has resigned as secretary / treasurer and appearances coordinator for the non-profit organization. lucrative.
Geraldi is well known throughout the region as the general manager of operations for the Sonoma County Airport Express and a frequent volunteer for groups such as the Sonoma County Fair Board.
But it was her role as the companion and chaperone of the Miss Sonoma County Laureates where the 58-year-old gained special visibility, attending major political, social and business functions throughout the year.
Miss Sonoma County candidates are between 18 and 25 years old. Competitors from her sister organization, Miss Sonoma County’s Outstanding Teen, are between 13 and 17 years old.
Several holders of the title of Miss Sonoma County have said they have made more than 100 appearances during their reigns.
Geraldi told The Press Democrat he left his post on Wednesday because he ran out of time to fulfill his role, which a former Miss Sonoma County said requires being in different parts of the county to any time of day and night.
Geraldi also attended Sunday rehearsals throughout the competition season, from around November to early March, and helped contestants with mock interviews, contest strategy and other aspects of the competition.
But questions have also arisen in recent months about what a few contest participants described as behavior or actions by Geraldi that made them feel uncomfortable.
In interviews with The Press Democrat, they complained about unwanted hugs and kisses on the face, as well as over-involvement in their lives and too many in-depth personal questions.
A young woman, then 16, and Miss Sonoma County’s Outstanding Teen of 2018, recalled an incident “burned into my head” after a dinner at a Miss California pageant, when Geraldi “grabbed my head and gave me a kiss on the forehead. “
“I felt so gross afterwards,” said the woman, Pinkeo Phongsa, now 19.
Geraldi, a widower since 2011, declined to answer questions about his conduct in an interview with the Democratic press. He is just too busy to continue serving, he said.
“I quit because I have too much on my plate,” he said. “I quit because I have a lot to do in my life.”
Geraldi added that he was unprepared to discuss suggestions that some of his behavior might have been inappropriate, saying, “I really don’t know what this is about.”
Former Healdsburg mayor and city councilor Brigette Mansell, a retired educator, said she has known Geraldi for 14 years as a tireless and generous member of the community and supporter of young women. This includes co-chairing, with Mansell, the successful campaign of former Miss Sonoma County 2014, Skylaer Palacios, who was elected to Healdsburg City Council last fall.
Mansell was also a contest judge in 2018 and said she had never seen behavior from Geraldi that she would consider questionable.
But another contestant, Lyndsey Burcina, 21, said Geraldi had asked several times over the past year if she thought any of her behaviors towards contest entrants could be misinterpreted, especially since that allegations of explosive sexual assault were made public last April about former Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli, a longtime supporter and one-time competition judge.
Since April, Foppoli has been accused by at least nine women of sexual misconduct and assault.
“The disturbing number of times (Geraldi) asked me, ‘Has everything I’ve done been misinterpreted? Do you think any of the girls would later try to turn my actions into something they weren’t?
“And my first thought was, ‘If you have to ask for something like that, then you’ve done something questionable,” ”Burcina said.
Other candidates say Geraldi has been an invaluable mentor and guide.
“Tony Geraldi is not only a good friend of mine, but he has supported me my entire career,” said Ashley Kimball, Miss Sonoma County 2013. “He changed my life.”
Appeals to the pageant director and Miss California field director for the area were not returned Wednesday night.
You can reach editor Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or [email protected] On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.