Developer would pay big sum to defeat 3 council members
Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune
April 8, 2005
Central Minneapolis developer Hamoudi Sabri is willing to pay whatever it takes -- possibly $1 million -- to help elect a new City Council.
In Sunday's Star Tribune, he placed an unusual classified ad seeking a "public relations professional/political organizer." The ad read: "Money no object for best candidate. Start immediately. Design media and community campaign re: City of Mpls wards 9,6 & 8 elections. Please call 612-622-4000."
In an interview Wednesday, Sabri said, "I'll spend a million dollars. Whatever it takes to do legally."
Asked whether he truly has that kind of money to spend, he said, "Of course I do."
But Sabri said he doesn't "know how the system works" so he's willing to hire someone.
"I'm not supporting anybody," he said of the City Council. "I think we need a complete overhaul in City Hall."
Sabri aims much of his anger at Ninth Ward Council Member Gary Schiff, whom he calls "Schiffty."
Schiff, a DFLer, took the ad in stride, blowing up a photocopied version and taping it to his office door. "I think this is the age-old case of developers wanting to influence City Hall. Here it's just out in the open," Schiff said.
During an interview, Sabri mentioned several times his property at Cedar Avenue and E. Lake Street. Schiff noted that the Planning Commission, on which he sits, recently unanimously rejected Sabri's proposal for a shopping center.
During a conversation, Sabri mentioned many times the legal troubles that his brother, Basim Sabri, has had. Basim Sabri awaits sentencing for his December federal conviction on three counts of bribery for his dealings with former City Council Member Brian Herron.
Sabri said the convictions are one reason he needs to hire a consultant rather than do the work himself.
He said he chose to target the three central-city wards because that's where he owns property and does business.
In addition to his distaste for Schiff, of whom he says, "I can call him anything I want; he's a public figure," Sabri said he eschews public subsidies.
"I'm really fed up with how this city's run," he said. "We've got morons running the city of Minneapolis."
David Schultz, an ethics professor at Hamline University in St. Paul, said Sabri would be required to register his group with the county and disclose revenue of $100 and above.
He faces no limits on what he can spend independently on the races, Schultz said.
Sabri said Wednesday that the political job remains open.