Project Veritas has partnered with Omar Jamal, a man of questionable reputation in the Somali community to allege “ballot harvesting fraud” in Minnesota. Credit: Screenshot via Project Veritas' YouTube page.

Omar Jamal, the main source for a controversial and questionable pair of videos alleging voter fraud in Minnesota, works for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. But what does that work involve? That question has proved hard to figure out. 

Omar Jamal’s exact role, job description, and salary remain unknown. And the Sheriff’s Office won’t disclose this information, despite Omar Jamal being on the public payroll. What is known is that Omar Jamal works in the office as a civilian employee, meaning he’s not a law enforcement officer, according to a media statement last week attributed to David Metusalem, chief deputy with the office. 

Last week, Project Veritas, which media researchers at Harvard University have labeled a “right-wing disinformation outfit,” released two videos featuring Omar Jamal. On camera, he alleges that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar orchestrated an illegal ballot harvesting operation in Minneapolis. At that time, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office sent reporters a prepared statement distancing itself from the videos. 

“In regards to the voter fraud media investigation and allegation, Mr. Jamal was not acting as an employee of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office,” the statement read. “Any direct implication would be a violation of department policies.” 

In the Project Veritas video, Omar Jamal also identified himself as “part of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office.”

Since then, Sahan Journal has sent multiple emails and left multiple voicemails with Roy Magnuson, the Sheriff’s Office’s spokesperson, asking for Omar Jamal’s job title, job duties, salary, and length of employment. Magnuson has not responded to these questions. 

On October 1, we filed a request with the office under the Minnesota Data Practices Act—the state’s public records law—seeking the information. As of press time almost one week later, we still haven’t heard back, other than an acknowledgement from the office that it received Sahan Journal’s  request and “will begin to review the request for appropriate processing.”

Reached by phone Tuesday morning, Omar Jamal did not respond to a reporter’s question about his job duties at the Sheriff’s Office, before hanging up on the call. 

Omar Jamal continues to make appearances with Sheriff Fletcher 

What is known is that the professional relationship between Omar Jamal and the Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher dates back to at least 2011. That year, Fletcher, who had just lost a bid for reelection, founded the Center for Somalia History Studies and hosted a training event for law enforcement. Critics like the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said this session focused unfairly on extremism in Minnesota’s Somali community. 

Omar Jamal was one of the speakers for that training event. He spoke at a similar event organized by Fletcher two years later. 

Fletcher ran again for sheriff in 2018, this time successfully, for a six-year term and assumed office in early 2019. Ramsey County’s online “Open Data Portal” lists employees only from 2015 to 2018. Omar Jamal’s name is not listed.

During the spring, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fletcher held a news conference outside of the Skyline Tower in St. Paul near Interstate 94, a public housing complex that’s home to several East African families and elders. Omar Jamal also spoke at the news conference, and both he and Fletcher warned that the high rise could become a COVID-19 hot spot. 

Omar Jamal has distanced himself from the Project Veritas report since it came out. Last week, in an appearance on the Somali American TV,  Omar Jamal questioned the authenticity of  one of the video’s clips, which allegedly shows a ballot harvester paying a person $200 to vote for Ilhan Omar. 

Omar Jamal also told the Somali American TV that he wasn’t always aware of when Project Veritas was filming him. A representative for Project Veritas confirmed this last claim in a letter to Sahan Journal.

Most recently, Liban Osman (called “Liban Mohamed” by Project Veritas) told Fox 9 News that Omar Jamal offered him $10,000 to say he was harvesting ballots for Ilhan Omar, as part of a Project Veritas video. In a video released Tuesday, Project Veritas denied that claim. 

Fox 9 News also quoted two anonymous sources, as well as Liban Osman, claiming that the money exchange in the Project Veritas video was actually Omar Jamal giving money to a family member for a sick relative in Somalia. Project Veritas denied this, too. 

Joey Peters

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. His work has appeared in Reuters, Public Radio International, Columbia Journalism Review, KFAI Radio, the Pioneer Press, City Pages, MinnPost and more. He previously...