Senate ethics subcommittee votes to continue investigation of Sen. Omar Fateh

A Minnesota Senate ethics subcommittee on Wednesday authorized an investigation of a two-count ethics complaint against Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis, and will subpoena two people, including Fateh’s former aid and campaign manager.

The Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct, a bipartisan four-member panel, continued its hearing on whether enough probable cause existed to conduct a formal review of the complaints, and voted unanimously to continue the investigation.

Fateh, a first-term lawmaker, faces ethics complaints filed by GOP colleagues who sought an inquiry into ads run on Somali TV of Minnesota — a popular YouTube channel for Minnesota’s Somali population — and whether Fateh inappropriately sought state grant money for the nonprofit.

The complaint is based on a May Reformer report that four months after Somali TV ads endorsed Fateh’s campaign, Fateh introduced a bill to give the nonprofit $500,000 in state funding.

Salah, the president of Somali TV, told the Reformer that Somali TV doesn’t endorse candidates but allows them to send in ads, which the channel runs free of charge. But Fateh said they were paid advertisements, not free endorsements, and produced CashApp screenshots showing he paid Salah $1,000 for the ads.

Republicans also want to examine Fateh’s ties to his brother-in-law, who volunteered on his 2020 campaign and was recently convicted of lying to a federal grand jury in a ballot fraud case related to Fateh’s victory in the 2020 DFL primary, when he beat then-state Sen. Jeff Hayden.

Fateh and his attorney both pushed back against GOP accusations that Fateh was involved in any wrongdoing and said he had no knowledge or involvement in his brother-in-law’s actions that led to legal troubles.

Republicans also are raising questions about Fateh’s former law aide, Dawson Kimyon, who resigned after his name came up during grand jury proceedings involving Muse Mohamud Mohamed, Fateh’s brother-in-law. After Mohamed’s conviction, DFL leadership put Kimyon on leave; he later resigned.

Kimyon also served as Fateh’s campaign manager in 2020.

“Those assistant US attorneys who had all of their grand juries and everything have not brought any criminal charges against Senator Fateh or Dawson Kimyon, and therefore I don’t think there is any basis to go forward with an ethics investigation against Sen. Fateh,” said Kristin Hendrick, an attorney representing Fateh.

Republicans on the panel pushed hard for more detailed explanations about Kimyon’s involvement in Mohamed’s conviction.

“It is very troubling,” said Sen. David Osmek, R-Mounds, chair of the subcommittee. “It brings disrepute upon the body that someone is employed and has been connected with a horrible violation of electoral process.”

Hendrick also said Fateh has not been interviewed by the grand jury or investigators looking into absentee ballots in the 2020 election.

The investigation into the complaint will begin with subpoenas for testimony from Kimyon and Siyad Salah, president of Somali TV.

DFL Sen. Bobby Joe Champion of Minneapolis said he wanted to review the grand jury transcript to learn more about Kimyon’s connection to the case.

Sen. David Osmek, the GOP committee chair, raised a new issue: There’s no record of Fateh’s campaign office — which was mentioned during Mohamed’s trial — in state filings.

“This is very troubling,” Osmek said. “We’re approaching backless disregard.”

The subcommittee is scheduled to meet next on July 7. Osmek said the panel intends to take the insurance and discuss further actions at that point.

Deena Winter contributed reporting.

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