In ethics hearing, Sen. Fateh defends behavior

A smiling man
Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis.
Courtesy Minnesota Senate

A Minnesota state senator accused of ethical missteps is defending his actions.

Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis, responded to allegations Wednesday through his lawyer during a hearing before a Senate ethics panel.

A complaint filed last month by seven Republican senators accuses the first-term lawmaker of failing to disclose a conflict of interest related to airtime he received on Somali TV of Minnesota. He later authorized state funding for the organization.

Attorney Kristin Hendrick told members of the Senate Rules Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct that Fateh paid for an ad on the YouTube channel, as have other politicians. She said the allegations are largely based on questionable news coverage.

“They stem primarily from news articles that are based on assumptions and rumor, not based on fact,” Hendrick said. “However, these unsworn statements are being touted as truth by the complainants. As we all know, printing information doesn’t make it fact.”

Some members of the panel asked why Fateh didn’t have better documentation of the ad buy and noted that he amended a filing with the state campaign finance board just this week to note the purchase. 

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The subcommittee is looking for probable cause and could decide to launch an investigation, but members did not vote on Wednesday.

The panel is set to meet again next week to discuss a second allegation against Fateh. That one relates to his brother-in-law and issues surrounding the unauthorized delivery of absentee ballots. 

The brother-in-law was recently found guilty in federal court of lying to a grand jury about his involvement in the delivery of absentee ballots without voters’ consent.

Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, is one of the Republican senators who filed the complaint.

“Sen. Fateh’s conduct violates accepted norms of senate behavior, betrays the public trust and brings the senate into dishonor and disrepute,” Koran said.