St. Paul mayoral candidate and City Council Member Dai Thao will not face criminal charges over an allegation that he attempted to solicit a bribe.
The Scott County attorney’s office declined on Tuesday to prosecute the claims made against Thao and his former campaign manager, Angela Marlow.
“After analyzing the facts and applicable law, we believe there is insufficient information on which to prosecute,” Neil Nelson, the county’s chief deputy attorney, wrote in a letter to a special agent of the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Thao, who has repeatedly said he welcomes the investigation and is cooperating, thanked law enforcement in a video posted Tuesday evening on Facebook.
“All along I’ve maintained in the strongest terms, since the very beginning, that these accusations were false and likely politically motivated by those who oppose our efforts to give all St. Paulites a voice and a seat at the table,” Thao said in the video.
He could not be reached for further comment.
The BCA had been investigating the allegations, stemming from a meeting in February between Thao, lobbyist Sarah Clarke and some of Clarke’s clients.
They met to discuss a potential city ordinance banning certain food packaging, like Styrofoam.
It’s an issue that could come before Thao in his capacity as a council member, as well as on the campaign trail.
Clarke said that Thao told the group during the meeting that he needs “resources to spread his message.”
She said it seemed clear he was asking for a bribe.
Marlow texted Clarke afterward, stating, “Dai asked me to see if I could get a donation from your clients or yourself for his mayor campaign? My understanding is that they are leaving tomorrow. We will certainly rethink this issue.”
Thao fired Marlow after news came out about Clarke’s claim they attempted to solicit a bribe. Clarke could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
When Marlow asked whether the lobbyist’s clients would make a donation to Thao’s mayoral campaign, she had “no frame of reference as to the meeting or its outcome,” Nelson wrote in his letter. “The mere request for a campaign donation, without some evidence of a proposed quid pro quo, is not illegal.”
Nelson also wrote that the people at the February meeting said Thao’s vote on a potential food packaging ordinance was not discussed.
“They also stated that Council Member Thao did not express his position, either for or against, such a materials ban for the city of St. Paul,” Nelson said.
During the investigation, Thao supporters have said they were waiting to see the results before making any assumptions.
Many people continued to lobby for him, and he got the second most support at the city’s DFL convention this summer.
TakeAction Minnesota, an advocacy organization that endorsed Thao, issued a statement Tuesday reiterating their support.
“In all the years we’ve known him, he’s been in politics for the people. We are proud to endorse him. And we’re proud to keep fighting with him to win this race and make St. Paul a great place for all people,” said Dan McGrath, executive director of TakeAction Minnesota.
Jessie Van Berkel • 612-673-4649