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Ethics panel tosses most claims against DFL state Sen. Omar Fateh

Seven Republicans brought a complaint forward in May alleging Fateh had violated Senate rules by failing to report paying for two campaign ads on Somali TV Minnesota in 2020. The Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct upheld that claim at a hearing Wednesday, July 27, but tossed others, including a request the committee review a possible tie to election fraud.

Sen. Omar Fateh - ethics
State Sen. Omar Fateh, left, speaks to the Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, as they weigh a complaint against him. To his right are his lawyer Kristin Hendrick and Sen. Mark Koran.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — A Minnesota Senate committee has dismissed most of the allegations in an ethics complaint against Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis, though it will recommend the first-term senator pursue training with the state campaign finance board.

Seven Republicans brought a complaint forward in May alleging Fateh had violated Senate rules by failing to report paying for two campaign ads on Somali TV Minnesota in 2020. The Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct upheld that claim at a hearing Wednesday, July 27, but tossed others, including a request the committee review a possible tie to election fraud. Fateh is a former federal elections agency worker.

A family member of Fateh’s who worked on the senator’s 2020 campaign was convicted in May for lying to a grand jury about delivering absentee ballots to voters without their knowledge during the August primary election. GOP senators asked the committee to investigate whether Fateh was involved, but ethics chairman David Osmek, R-Mound, said there was no evidence to establish a connection.

The Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct met Wednesday to take up complaints about Minneapolis Sen. Omar Fateh. The complaints were brought forth by seven GOP senators.

“There are some concerning portions of the counts that have been laid forth, however … I cannot find any testimony that can make that case,” he said.

The committee subpoenaed former Fateh campaign manager and legislative assistant Dawson Kimyon to testify about the ballots issue after he was a no-show at an earlier hearing Kimyon appeared before the committee with his lawyer but invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege and did not answer the members’ questions — save one confirming the periods he worked for Fateh.

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The ethics panel also dismissed claims of an alleged conflict of interest involving Fateh and Somali TV. Fateh backed a $500,000 bill in the Legislature this year to boost state funding for the media company, something Republicans alleged violated conflict of interest rules. Osmek said there was nothing to back that claim.

“I don’t see tangible evidence that the half million dollars that was put into a bonding request necessarily was a direct action or a direct result of any other activity. I certainly have put forth bills for nonprofit organizations,” Osmek said.

At a June hearing, Fateh and his lawyer showed the committee a digital receipt for purchasing the advertisement on Somali TV and a sworn statement from company president Siyah Salah to back it. Fateh said he did not pay for an endorsement. Salah testified to the committee Wednesday that he had forgotten to disclose the ad purchase even though Fateh had told him to do so.

Osmek added that since Fateh had offered evidence to clarify he had paid for the ads and had not received them for free, the committee could dismiss the conflict of interest claim. The committee composed of two DFL and two Republican senators unanimously voted to send their recommendations to the Senate Rules Committee, which will handle the next steps in the disciplinary process.

The committee decision comes after multiple hearings that started in June, and a unanimous vote to further investigate the Republican allegations. Senate Democrats welcomed an investigation when Republicans filed their complaint in May.

Fateh faces a challenge from Shaun Laden in the Democratic primary for his south Minneapolis district on Aug. 9.

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Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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