Senate settles Brodkorb lawsuit

Published 8:50 am Friday, September 27, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Senate agreed Thursday to pay $30,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former staffer who was fired over an affair with the chamber’s majority leader.

It’s the same amount that Senate leaders say Michael Brodkorb was offered as severance before he filed his lawsuit. Brodkorb had been seeking more than $500,000 over his December 2011 firing.

Brodkorb was dismissed after Senate leaders discovered he was having an affair with then-Majority Leader Amy Koch. Brodkorb sued for wrongful termination, arguing that he was treated differently than female staffers who had carried on affairs at the Capitol.

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Senate leaders had argued they acted properly and had refused to settle. But legal costs had piled up to nearly $320,000 as of earlier this month.

“It’s a tremendous load off my shoulders, and I feel like I have my life back,” Brodkorb said.

In a statement, Senate leaders said Brodkorb had admitted he couldn’t prove any of his claims. They agreed to drop a motion for sanctions against him and his attorneys for an accidental release of sealed documents. And they dropped any attempt to recover attorney fees.

The settlement leaves in place a court-ordered seal on documents filed in the case. That’s significant because Brodkorb’s legal case included allegations of other affairs carried out at the Capitol by past and present lawmakers. The document accidentally filed publicly by his attorneys earlier this summer named several past and present lawmakers and aides he accused of doing just that.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, a Democrat, issued a statement that said the settlement was in the best interests of taxpayers.

Minority Leader David Hann, a Republican who was among the leaders who confronted Koch over the affair, said he was “pleased that this agreement acknowledges that the facts of the case do not support any of the claims against the Senate and that the case has been dismissed.”

Both Brodkorb and Koch were powerbrokers in the Republican Party before their affair was discovered. Brodkorb rose to prominence as an aggressive researcher who attacked Democrats through his personal blog. He was the Senate’s GOP communications director when he was fired, a post that had him working closely with Koch on strategy.

But the affair ended that, with Koch resigning her leadership post after she was confronted by Senate Republicans, who then controlled the chamber.

While Koch faded from view, serving out her Senate term and leaving the Legislature, Brodkorb sued and built his case on a gender discrimination claim. As the legal case dragged on, he took steps to rebuild his career as a political consultant.

His attorney, Greg Walsh, said the settlement would help Brodkorb get his personal and professional career back on track. Brodkorb’s father, Bernie, stood behind him at the news conference.

Koch said she was relieved by the settlement.

“The money that was being spent seemed absurd to me,” Koch said. She also said she was worried about other families being hurt if other legislative affairs came out.

“I understand the hurt that was coming for those folks and it was very concerning for me,” Koch said.

Marshall Tanick, a longtime employment law attorney in Minneapolis, said both sides gain from what he called a “relatively small” settlement.

“From Brodkorb’s and his attorneys’ standpoint, it relieves them of the threat or risk of having the case dismissed and sanctions imposed,” Tanick said. “From the standpoint of the Senate and the public, it brings to a conclusion a matter that has been disturbing and cuts off a legal expense that’s been a drain on the state coffers.”