Tuesday, August 21, 2018
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St. Paul mayor confirms FBI probe; says it's a political attack
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One day after announcing his re-election campaign, St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly acknowledged that one of his staffers is the target of an FBI probe. Kelly claims news of the probe was leaked by a political opponent. (MPR Photo/Toni Randolph)
St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly confirms that as far as he knows, his aide Sia Lo is the target of a federal corruption investigation. The mayor made the announcement Tuesday, in response to a Star Tribune article that named Lo. The article lists an allegation made by an unnamed source that Lo had offered a businessman help from the mayor's office in exchange for money. Lo told the paper the allegations were false. Kelly urged the public not to jump to conclusions about Lo. And he says the allegations are part of a political attack.

St. Paul, Minn. — Mayor Randy Kelly says the corruption allegations were first brought to deputy mayor Dennis Flaherty about 10 months ago. Kelly says Flaherty, a longtime law enforcement officer, questioned the accusers and the accused. Kelly says because of the seriousness of the allegations, a decision was made to turn the case over to the FBI.

Kelly says his aide, Sia Lo, didn't even know he was the target of an investigation until the mayor informed him Monday night. Kelly says he was reluctant to confirm it publicly, but felt he had no choice.

"What discourages me and causes me great heartache is that in order to protect the reputations of the rest of my staff, to avoid having a cloud of suspicion hanging over their heads as people speculate about which of them is under investigation, I'm forced to confirm the name of the individual who is under investigation," says Kelly.

Lo, 38, is an attorney who serves as Kelly's liasion to the Southeast Asian community. Lo's duties include focusing on helping new immigrants make a transition to America and St. Paul. He recently accompanied the mayor on a trip to a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand.

It doesn't seem in character with him, because (Sia Lo) is very aware of his character and his family's name.
- Ilene Her, Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans

Kelly says Lo is compassionate and hardworking. In fact, Kelly -- who is running for re-election -- says he believes Lo has been unfairly caught up the middle of a political attack.

"I'm discouraged by the fact this investigation was leaked to the press to attack me for political purposes -- by quite possibly destroying the reputation and good name of a young man, who, for all that I ever believed to be true, is a good father, a loyal husband and a hardworking public servant," says Kelly.

Kelly declined to say who he thinks is responsible for leaking information about the investigation. Kelly's challengers -- Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega and former City Council member Chris Coleman - both say they were unaware of the investigation until reading about it in the newspaper.

Ortega says it's not something he plans to use in his campaign.

"I'm also interested, as a St. Paul resident, that we have an honest, open and a quick resolution in this investigation, allegations, regardless of where they go," Ortega says.

Some people who know Sia Lo say they are surprised to hear these allegations. And they doubt he would be involved in this kind of situation.

"I just think we have to withhold judgment," says Ilene Her, head of the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans. She knows Lo's family well and went to the same high school as Lo on the east side of St. Paul.

"For all that I know of him -- I mean, it kind of shocks me that he would be involved in something like this. It doesn't seem in character with him, because he's very aware of his character and his family's name. And I know that his family works hard to be ethical and people with integrity," says Her.

Calls to Lo's house were not returned. Mayor Kelly says Lo took the day off from work to spend time with his family and to consult a lawyer.

Federal authorities say they can't confirm or deny that they are conducting a corruption investigation in St. Paul.

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