The private attorney hired by the Minnesota Senate to handle fallout from the former majority leader's extramarital affair said Tuesday she doesn't have a formal contract outlining her duties and refused to say how much she is being paid.
The Associated Press approached attorney Dayle Nolan after a Senate ethics hearing related to the affair, which cost Sen. Amy Koch her leadership post and led to the firing of a senior adviser. Nolan's advice has been cited to justify limiting testimony in the ethics hearing related to the affair and actions GOP senators took in response.
Mirroring a pattern of secrecy set by Senate officials, Nolan answered "no" when asked if she had signed a contract and deflected other questions about how her deal is structured. "I don't think it's appropriate for me to respond," Nolan said.
The Senate and some individuals have been threatened with lawsuits from Michael Brodkorb, the aide who was fired in connection with the affair. Brodkorb claims he was treated differently than female subordinates caught in affairs with their superiors. Nolan has been the legal point person for the Senate in dealing with Brodkorb's attorneys.
But she also sat through hours of ethics committee hearings, met privately with ethics committee members and has been seen conferring with Senate in-house counsel during the ethics case involving GOP Sen. Geoff Michel.
For the second time in three weeks, the ethics panel deadlocked Tuesday on whether to dismiss or move ahead with a complaint against Michel. A former deputy majority leader at the time, Michel is accused by Democrats of breaching public trust by giving adeep political connections. State campaign finance data shows a mere $400 in donations over the last dozen years, $200 to a local Democratic party chapter and $200 to former GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Fellow attorneys at her law firm — Larkin Hoffman in Minneapolis — have scattered donations across the political spectrum.
By coincidence Tuesday, the GOP-led House unanimously approved an amendment to a broader government records bill that would explicitly declare that retainer agreements involving the Legislature and private attorneys are public data. The Republican-controlled Senate has not taken a similar vote.
Rep. Joe Atkins, a Democrat, said he sought the change after being denied access to an attorney's contract stemming from the termination of a legislative commission director.