$46,150 legal tab in Senate scandal

Published 2:31 pm Saturday, May 26, 2012

ST. PAUL  — The legal tab for the Minnesota Senate in the firing of a high-ranking staffer is $46,150 and counting, according to an invoice released Friday.

The billing detailed $330-an-hour legal services from an outside attorney, Dayle Nolan, retained to defend the Senate over the firing of Michael Brodkorb. It covered her work from January through March, although the matter has lingered past April 1.

It’s the first solid accounting of costs so far from Brodkorb’s termination. He was dismissed shortly after his boss, GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, resigned her leadership position. It was later revealed the two were having an affair.

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Brodkorb has hired his own attorneys and is taking steps toward a federal gender discrimination lawsuit, arguing that he was treated differently from other employees involved in workplace affairs. His legal team has also threatened to bring lawsuits in state court against several senators and Senate officials on other grounds, including defamation of character and invasion of privacy. Those officials could be entitled to state-paid legal expenses.

The billing for the Senate’s potential defense came in just under a $50,000 threshold that would trigger a public hearing by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. It’s not clear whether the next invoice will come due before November’s election, which will decide which party leads the Senate.

The invoice showed that many of Nolan’s hours involved meetings with Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman, one of the potential targets of a lawsuit. Brodkorb’s team has threatened to sue Ludeman personally for defamation of character after Ludeman compared Brodkorb’s legal threats to “extortion or blackmail.”

Nolan and four associates at her firm, Minneapolis-based Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren, put more than 160 hours of work into the case during the time period covered by the invoice. Several hearings have been held and other legal work has been done on the case since then.

Most of the work was billed at Nolan’s hourly rate, but some was done by an assistant charging $60 an hour. For instance, the cost for Nolan to prepare for and attend a March Senate ethics hearing over then-Assistant Majority Leader Geoff Michel’s handling of the matter reached nearly $4,000.

The legal work also included telephone conferences, legal research, reviewing media reports, drafting memos and speaking with senators and staff.

Ludeman said the invoice will be paid once Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, and Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, sign off.