The free food scandal connections to Minneapolis city government

They say to always follow the money. The fallout from the alleged free-food scandal has claimed another Minneapolis official. This time it was the chair of the city’s public housing authority.

Sharmarke Issa has resigned as head of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority. He has been accused (but not charged) by the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota of buying property with the ill-gotten gains of the Feeding Our Future scandal.

Issa served as chair of the Authority’s governing body. The Authority’s chief executive is Abdi Warsame, a former member of the Minneapolis City Council. Warsame was appointed to his post by Mayor Jacob Frey in 2020.

So far, not one property has been seized and not one person has been arrested or charged in the free-food scandal. FBI raids took place on Jan. 20. The targeted nonprofit Feeding Our Future has announced that it is dissolving.

Issa’s business partner is Abdi Salah, a senior aide to Mayor Frey. Salah resigned his city position earlier this month, reportedly to spend more time with his family. Before moving to the mayor’s office, Salah had worked as a senior aide to then-city councilman Warsame.

Warsame’s city council campaign account is still active. However, no reports have been filed for calendar years 2019, 2020, or 2021.

Warsame’s successor on the city council, representing Ward 6, is Jamal Osman, who has his own ties to the alleged free-food scandal.

Osman’s own reports make for interesting reading. You may recall his brother Liban was featured in a now-infamous Project Veritas report on ballot-harvesting in the 2020 election in Minnesota. Osman’s campaign paid Liban $5,600 for staff work that summer.

Jeremiah Ellison, a member of the city council and son of the state’s attorney general, received contributions from four of seven figures associated with the Safari Restaurant. All six names appear in the FBI search warrants. Each of the four donated $600 and all the donations were received on December 20, 2021, according to filings at the county’s campaign finance agency.

Two other Minneapolis Democrats, State Senator Omar Fateh and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, received contributions in 2021 from some of these men. Fateh returned these contributions, and several other related ones. Omar donated the money she received to local food charities.

Sharmarke Issa had been appointed twice by Frey to chair the public housing authority, initially in 2019 and re-appointed in 2021. He purchased a 4-unit apartment building with Salah in south Minneapolis for $386,000. The city’s biggest landlord (through the housing authority) became a small-time landlord in his own right.

Some $200,000 of the building’s purchase price is said by the FBI to have come from the free-food scandal through Salah’s brother, a part-owner of the Safari Restaurant in Minneapolis.

Issa tells the Star Tribune that his resignation was for personal reasons, unrelated to the scandal.

Issa has a professional background in urban planning. He came to America as a child refugee from Somalia. One-third of the residents in Minneapolis public housing are of East African heritage.

A spokesperson for the Mayor is quoted as saying,

If true, the allegations outlined in the federal investigation are appalling and run counter to the values that we are entrusted to uphold in the City of Minneapolis.

Issa and Salah are not Frey’s only connections to the Feeding Our Future alleged scandal. The mayor took in $6,000 in political donations from six of the seven figures linked to the affair, including the brother Salah. Another of the six, Abdikadir Mohamud, was appointed by Frey to a public safety working group in December 2021.

The 2021 totals, by donor,

The more you dig, the more the whole thing folds back upon itself.