State Senator Omar Fateh, left, observes State Senator Mark Koran, right, read an ethics complaint against him on June 8, 2022. Credit: Ben Hovland | Sahan Journal

In a rare move, a Minnesota Senate subcommittee will subpoena state Senator Omar Fateh’s former campaign manager after he failed to show up for an ethics hearing Thursday morning.

Legislators from the Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct were planning to question Dawson Kimyon in their probe of Omar’s campaign activities in 2020 and his work as a lawmaker. Kimyon also worked for Omar as a legislative assistant until this past May. 

State Senator David Osmek, R-Mound, who chairs the subcommittee, called Kimyon’s no-show “very disturbing.” The subcommittee has held two previous hearings on the matter.

“This needs to be taken seriously,” Osmek said.

It’s rare for senators to issue subpoenas, said Tom Bottern, counsel for the Minnesota State Senate. Bottern said the last time he could recall it happening was in 2005.

Osmek said the subcommittee is now planning for Kimyon to testify on July 27. 

Bill Mauzey, Kimyon’s attorney, faulted the subcommittee for not subpoenaing Kimyon before scheduling his testimony. Mauzey said subpoenaing a witness to testify is a standard legal practice and legislators should not be surprised Kimyon didn’t show up.

Kimyon did not return phone calls and messages from Sahan Journal seeking comment Thursday. 

“This is a legal process and legislators should follow the rules,” Mauzy told Sahan Journal. “If they follow the rules and serve a subpoena, he’ll be there.”

The subcommittee first announced plans to subpoena Kimyon last month, but Osmek told reporters Thursday that the subcommittee did not formally issue a subpoena because they were under the impression that Kimyon was cooperating and would testify Thursday.

“We don’t want to issue subpoenas if people are going to be voluntary,” Osmek said. “It doesn’t look good and doesn’t set a good precedent.” 

Bottern said he was in contact with Kimyon for the past month, and that he informed Kimyon’s attorney on June 24 that Kimyon was scheduled to testify Thursday.

Bottern said Thursday that Kimyon’s attorney alerted him at 6:36 A.M. that morning that Kimyon would not be showing up because of the absence of a subpoena. 

Kimyon’s name was mentioned in connection with a federal investigation into possible voting fraud during the 2020 primary election in Minneapolis. Omar’s brother-in-law and 2020 campaign volunteer, Muse Mohamed, testified before a federal grand jury last fall as part of the investigation.

Kimyon served as Omar’s campaign manager in the 2020 election. After Omar won the election, Kimyon became his legislative aide. Omar is a first-term Democrat representing parts of south Minneapolis. He is running for reelection this year. 

Muse told the grand jury that he received contact information for three voters from Kimyon. Muse repeatedly stated that he met with all three voters and collected their absentee ballots from them. Two of these voters, however, testified during Muse’s federal trial in May that they had never met him. The third voter did not testify.

Jurors convicted Muse in May for lying under oath at the grand jury about his handling of the three absentee ballots.

After Muse’s conviction, seven Republican state senators filed a formal ethics complaint against Omar for “failing to expressly address his involvement in the unauthorized delivery of 2020 primary election absentee ballots.”

Mauzy declined to comment on Muse’s grand jury testimony about Kimyon, saying it was “attorney-client privileged” information.

In the second ethics hearing in June, Omar and his attorney expressed shock about alleged wrongdoing in his campaign concerning handling of absentee ballots. Omar testified at the hearing that he had no knowledge of the allegations until they became public during Muse’s trial. 

Omar and his attorney, Kristin Hendrick, appeared at Thursday’s hearing. The subcommittee adjourned soon after convening without hearing from any witnesses. Omar did not testify Thursday, and left without addressing reporters. 

The subcommittee, which is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans, is also investigating an alleged conflict of interest between Omar and Somali TV Minnesota, a nonprofit online community media outlet. The complaint filed by Republican senators alleges that Omar authored a bill to give Somali TV Minnesota $500,000 in public money after the media outlet gave him free advertising and endorsed his campaign. 

Omar testified in June that he paid for the advertising, and that Somali TV Minnesota never endorsed his campaign. 

The subcommittee is also in the process of subpoenaing Siyad Salah, president of Somali TV Minnesota. Osmek said Thursday that he was less concerned about Siyad’s cooperation with the subcommittee, adding that Siyad was initially hard to reach, but has been in contact in the past few weeks. Siyad was not scheduled to testify Thursday.

Osmek said he also plans to ask Kimyon about a south Minneapolis business that Omar used as his campaign headquarters in 2020 but did not disclose in his campaign finance reports as an in-kind contribution.

Subcommittee member and state Senator Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, expressed frustration during Thursday’s hearing that the subcommittee was trying to “accommodate the schedule of people who clearly have schedule problems in being with us.” 

She implied that even if they are subpoenaed, Kimyon and Sayid could invoke their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions, leaving the subcommittee in the same spot it’s in currently. 

“It will be very interesting to see how they answer, because they don’t have to,” Torres Ray said. “When they don’t, what is our next step?”

Mauzy declined to say how Kimyon plans to answer subcommittee questions, or whether he’s considering invoking his Fifth Amendment rights. 

Speaking to fellow subcommittee members, Torres Ray said the group’s purpose is limited to investigating whether a senator broke Senate rules. She emphasized that they had already heard from Omar.

“You may want to call other testifiers,” she said. “If you want to believe that these individuals have a reason to provide a testimony that will conflict with [Omar’s] testimony, it’s up to you to decide who you want to believe. You can call anybody you want and hear them. I want to hear from our members.”

Osmek appeared frustrated with Torres Ray’s comments, and repeatedly reminded her that she voted last month to subpoena both Kimyon and Sayid. 

“To characterize this as foot-dragging, or to characterize this as anything but seeking the truth is out of line,” Osmek said. 

The Senate subcommittee has legal authority to subpoena individuals. Those who defy subpoenas are subject to misdemeanor charges, Bottern told Sahan Journal, and law enforcement can compel them to testify.

While Torres Ray criticized the subcommittee’s investigation process for dragging on into many hearings before making findings, Osmek at one point stated he anticipated findings could come after the next hearing. 

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. He has been a journalist for 15 years. Before joining Sahan Journal, he worked for close to a decade in New Mexico, where his reporting prompted the resignation...