Ex-Senate aide Brodkorb sues over firing

Brodkorb, Walsh
In a March 2012 file photo, Michael Brodkorb, right, and his attorney Gregory Walsh spoke to the news media in Minneapolis after filing a gender discrimination complaint against the state of Minnesota and the state Senate with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Brodkorb is also now suing over his termination last December after being involved in an extramarital affair with the top Senate leader.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

A former Minnesota Senate aide who was fired after having an affair with the chamber's top Republican leader filed a lawsuit Monday saying he was treated unfairly and discriminated against because female employees involved in similar relationships didn't lose their jobs.

Michael Brodkorb, 38, was fired in December from his $90,000-a-year job as the majority GOP caucus' communications director after having an affair with then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. She later resigned from her leadership post and declared she wouldn't seek another term.

Brodkorb filed his lawsuit against the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Senate and a top Senate administrative official, claiming an invasion of privacy, defamation and gender discrimination, among other things. The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 -- a standard figure in state civil lawsuits -- but his attorneys have said they hope to get at least $500,000.

Brodkorb had been threatening a lawsuit for months, and as of mid-May, the Senate had already spent nearly $85,000 as it prepared to defend itself. Senate Majority Leader David Senjem said Monday that he was prepared to go to court rather than settle, so it is sure to spend more.

Minnesota law presumes the state will cover expenses, attorney fees, fines and settlements for public employees facing litigation connected to their jobs as long as they weren't willfully neglectful or guilty of malfeasance. While Brodkorb won't be entitled to state-paid attorneys, anyone who is deposed or named in the case probably will be.

Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman fired Brodkorb during a tense meeting in a restaurant away from the Capitol, not long after other senators confronted Koch about the affair. Until last fall, Brodkorb also was the deputy chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party.

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Special session
In a July 2011 file photo, Amy Koch, at the time the Senate majority leader, listens to debate on the Senate floor in the state Capitol in St. Paul. Koch relinquished her leadership post in December and declared she would not seek another term after being confronted by other senators about an extramarital affair.
MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

Koch was the state's first female Senate majority leader and a rising GOP star after the 2010 elections gave the party control of the Senate for the first time in four decades.

Brodkorb's court filing said Koch would testify that the firing was directly related to their affair.

Koch declined to comment when reached Monday by The Associated Press. But her attorney Ron Rosenbaum offered a limited reaction attesting to the claim.

"She absolutely believes that and will have significantly more to say on that topic as this legal case proceeds," he said.

The fallout from the affair has proven an election-year distraction for a state Republican Party in disarray. It holds none of the state's statewide offices for the first time in decades and is deep in debt. Earlier this month, campaign regulators slapped the party with $30,000 in fines for concealing fundraising associated with a 2010 gubernatorial recount; its former chairman was also fined.

The lawsuit was filed after Brodkorb and his attorneys said they obtained a right-to-sue letter from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Brodkorb's team declined to make the document available.

The lawsuit said the episode caused him "emotional distress" and "similarly situated female legislative employees, from both parties, were not terminated from their employment positions despite intimate relationships with male legislators." Brodkorb's lawsuit said he should have been afforded the chance to transfer jobs.

Ludeman is named directly in the lawsuit, which says he defamed Brodkorb by publicly discussing the case and suggesting Brodkorb was trying to blackmail the state into a settlement.

A staff member said Ludeman was not immediately available for comment. Senjem, R-Rochester, said the private lawyer hired to defend the Senate would do all it could to protect taxpayer interests.

"I believe the Senate has done nothing wrong," Senjem said in a written statement. "In fact, the Senate has acted carefully and appropriately in regards to this employment issue. I am not interested in a mediated settlement, and I believe the Senate will prevail in court."


Associated Press writer Martiga Lohn contributed to this report.


Here's a copy of the lawsuit. Use the toolbar to enlarge.