FLHS graduate at center of State Senate scandal

Michael Brodkorb graduated here in 1992

T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter

Senate Republican leaders were tight lipped on Friday, March 16 about the flare up between attorneys for former Senate Republican communications director Michael Brodkorb and Senate officials concerning Brodkorb’s allegation that he was wrongfully fired from the Senate.

Brodkorb, through his attorneys, revealed he had an intimate relationship with former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, while working as a Senate staffer.

Michael Brodkorb, center, glances at Sen. Amy Koch, who often appeared unhappy with the progress of the budget talks last spring, as Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton addresses the media. Brodkorb is seeking a settlement regarding his dismissal from the Senate last December. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

For her part, Koch, who resigned her leadership post last December, admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with a staffer but never named the individual.

Brodkorb is a former Forest Lake resident and a 1992 graduate of Forest Lake High School.

Brodkorb began working on Republican campaigns in the 1990s and eventually founded a web blog called Minnesota Democrats Exposed which continued from 2004 to 2008.

The work helped in his rise to roles as deputy chairman of the GOP and chief spokesman for Senate Republicans.

Brodkorb is demanding damages in excess of $500,000 for the alleged illegal dismissal last December.

Filing of a notice of claims by Brodkorb’s attorneys with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and Senate attorney Dayle Nolan had Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman later issuing a statement charging that Brodkorb’s claims were without merit. Indeed, Ludeman accused Brodkorb of attempting to disrupt the work of the Senate and “extort” a payment.

Brodkorb’s attorneys answered the next day, charging Ludeman had issued a “false and defamatory statement.”

Philip Villaume, representing Brodkorb, went on to use words like “smear” and “lie” in describing the content of Ludeman’s statement.

He further suggested the statement had come as a shock — Villaume said Nolan had been receptive to the idea of mediation. But Nolan, in response, said her investigation and the claims made by Brodkorb and his attorney led her to conclude there had been no wrongdoing.

But Villaume said that Brodkorb, who did not appear with his attorneys at a March 15 press conference in St. Paul and is not expected to give interviews to the media, from the start made plain his willingness to file suit if efforts at mediation failed.

Will Expose Affairs

Since the potential lawsuit would be based on the premise that Brodkorb had been treated differently than other staffers and legislators engaged in adulterous affairs, explained Villaume, it would be necessary to take dispositions from these individuals. Brodkorb’s attorney said last week Brodkorb has evidence of more than a dozen affairs that he would expose.

“We as attorneys don’t threaten,” Villaume said.

The next step in the process, Villaume said, will be a filing with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging gender discrimination.

Republican leaders had little to say about developments.

“It is what it is,” said Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester. “If you’re standing in our shoes, you focus on the session.” Senjem down played the importance of the matter.

He styled possible legal actions as  a “sidebar potential lawsuit.”

Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said the Senate was a employer. And as with businesses facing similar employment disputes, the Senate would continue its work. “So that’s what we’ll do — continue with our business,” she said.

Although Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, spoke of a bad week in the Senate — legislators doing “nothing but damage” to the institution they have a duty to respect — he said the Brodkorb developments were not a distraction.

Bakk suggested that Ludeman’s assertion that all Senate employees are “at will,” or subject to termination at any time, was correct. “I think the Senate will prevail if Michael Brodkorb files a suit against the Senate,” he said.

More Bakk

In an interview with the ECM Editorial Board last Friday, Bakk said he was concerned with the damage to the Senate as an institution and what could be costly to the general fund in terms of defense of the allegations brought by Brodkorb.

Bakk said he will also continue to insist on an apology from Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, over his handling of the Brodkorb termination. Bakk accused Michel of lying to the Senate and the public by stating in late December that he only recently  learned of the Brodkorb-Koch affair. Sen. Michel learned of the the problem on Sep. 21, 2011, Bakk charged.

“He owes us all an apology,” Bakk said of Michel.

Bakk’s prediction that time was running short for an ethics violation complaint against Michel rang true on Monday when such a complaint was filed in the Senate.

Bakk said such an overture by Michel would be no different than actions by previous DFL leaders, such as former Majority Leader Dean Johnson, who went before the full Senate to apologize for their actions.