The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) released hundreds of pages of interviews, text messages and reports Wednesday detailing the investigation of St. Paul City Council member and mayoral candidate Dai Thao.
Lobbyist Sarah Clarke accused Thao of attempting to solicit a bribe earlier this year and her concerns were leaked to the news media, sparking the BCA investigation. The Scott County Attorney’s Office reviewed the materials and found there was insufficient information to prosecute.
“It was a very thorough investigation,” Thao said Wednesday. “I go to church. I know that God knows the number of hairs we have on our head. And God knows that I did not ask for a bribe and I’m innocent.”
Two words — “resources” and “rethink” — were particularly important in the investigation, the documents show. Clarke, who represents a packaging manufacturer, set up a meeting with Thao to talk about what was then a proposed city regulation to get businesses to use eco-friendly packaging materials. Clarke said Thao asked for “resources” during the meeting and it seemed clear he wanted a donation.
Thao told investigators he thought they were having a campaign meeting and in such meetings he asks for resources, which he said “could be a contribution, could be volunteers, it could be door knockers.” He said his request was not intended to be a transaction, or to imply that he would consider the packaging issue differently.
Thao’s campaign manager at the time, Angela Marlow, texted Clarke after the meeting, asking for a donation and said they would “rethink” the issue. She told investigators she wasn’t familiar with the issue they were discussing and didn’t know it could come before the City Council.
“I’m not trading or promising, I don’t even know it’s up for vote so … have no ability to promise a vote,” she said.
The documents also outline a tangled political web. Clarke is married to Minneapolis mayoral candidate Jacob Frey. Clarke told investigators that when she met with Thao the first thing he said was about her husband endorsing Thao’s competitor, Melvin Carter. Frey had not endorsed Carter, Clarke said, but they have a “long-standing friendship” and Frey had attended Carter’s campaign kickoff and said he would be a great mayor.
Clarke has repeatedly said she did not want her text exchange with Marlow or news of the meeting with Thao to come out, and someone betrayed her trust and leaked it.
Jessie Van Berkel • 612-673-4649