Council to ponder reimbursing Samuels after FBI inquiry finds no wrongdoing

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 10, 2013 - 8:52 PM

It focused on a potential conflict of interest in his role as council member and co-founder of Peace Foundation.

A former Minneapolis mayoral candidate was the subject of a brief FBI investigation early this year that concluded with no findings of wrongdoing, according to documents presented to the City Council.

The council’s budget committee will weigh Wednesday whether to reimburse outgoing Council Member Don Samuels for $9,083 in attorney’s fees relating to the investigation.

The probe focused on a complaint that Samuels had a conflict of interest in his roles as a City Council member and co-founder of the Peace Foundation, a precursor to the Northside Achievement Zone. Samuels’ wife, Sondra, is the CEO of the organization, a collaborative aimed at getting more children to college.

Samuels said the FBI interviewed him for several hours during the campaign.

“After an initial inquiry, the Department of Justice concluded that a full investigation was not warranted and the matter was officially closed on Jan. 28, 2013,” said the request for reimbursement, prepared by the city attorney’s office.

Samuels said Tuesday that he does not know who filed the complaint, nor its exact allegations. He said he believes that it was politically motivated, however.

“I just waited until the campaign was over because I thought that one of the intended purposes might be influencing the mayor’s race,” Samuels said. “And any addressing of it at all, even to say the case was closed and there was no cause, would kind of be a political challenge in a campaign.”

Former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger represented Samuels in communications with the FBI. He said Tuesday that the process lasted less than six weeks and that they never learned the exact allegations.

Kyle Loven, a spokesman for the FBI, said department policy prevents him from commenting on the case.

Samuels provided the Star Tribune with a letter from the U.S. attorney’s office showing that the investigation was closed in January.

Samuels’ successor, Blong Yang, will be sworn in Jan. 6. Samuels, a former toy designer who was on the council for two terms, has not decided what he will do after leaving the council.

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732

Twitter: @StribRoper

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