Brodkorb insists he was fired from state Senate unfairly

Michael Brodkorb
Michael Brodkorb, standing near the Minnesota Capitol on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, says this is as close as he's gotten to the Capitol since he was fired from his job there in December.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

Former Republican state Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb has broken his silence about his firing in the aftermath of a Capitol sex scandal that came to light last winter.

Brodkorb said he asked a federal judge to lift the gag order on the case so that he could counter allegations about him. He also said that he thought the Senate was prepared to accommodate his relationship with GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch before Republicans fired him in December.

"There is absolutely no question that I regret the personal decisions that I made. I'm going to carry this with me for the rest of my life," he said. "There are going to continue to have to be some painful conversations and painful discussions with members of my family about this."

Brodkorb won't say what those discussions involve, or whether his relationship with Koch is still going on.

"I'm not going to comment on my personal life," he said.

Koch has also repeatedly declined comment on the relationship.

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But 10 months after he was fired, Brodkorb said he doesn't think the affair was necessarily fatal to the GOP's political prospects and that he believes the Senate was prepared to keep him on -- albeit in a different role. Brodkorb confirmed reports that the affair was discovered by Republican Senate chief of staff Cullen Sheehan.

"When Cullen and I spoke, I confirmed that there had been a relationship," he said, adding that he believed Sheehan was trying to follow a state personnel policy that would keep the relationship private and break any supervisory link between Brodkorb and Koch.

"We had multiple conversations throughout the balance of September, all of October, until he left in November," Brodkorb said. "Cullen was a resource for discussion on opportunities related to finding another opportunity in the Legislature, I was using him as a sounding board for job prospects and discussions in the area of politics, in other areas of state government. A whole host of other opportunities."

Sheehan declined to confirm that account, or answer questions about his discussions with Brodkorb.

But in the middle of December last year, senators who had discovered the affair confronted Koch, prompting her to resign from leadership on Dec. 15. Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman fired Brodkorb the next day. Ludeman has said Brodkorb, as Koch's spokesman, was an at-will employee and could be fired for any cause, or no cause.

Brodkorb contends there was a cause.

"I was fired because of my gender, when there were clear examples of female employees that were treated different," he said, declining to elaborate, or even offer an approximate count of how many other legislators he believes had been involved in such affairs with staff.

"I'm not going to disclose names. Unlike how the Minnesota Senate handled this, I'm not going to have a press conference. I'm not going to post this information on a blog. I'm not going to release it behind the scenes," he said. "Information that I have has been provided to my attorneys, and they will be the ultimate arbiter of how that information is processed."

Brodkorb also said he thinks Koch's gender played a role.

"My theory has always been that it was the old boys' network at play, and here you had the first female majority leader. There's no question that the intention must have been a political takeover of the Minnesota Senate," he said.

Still, he didn't think the potential scandal was reason to fire him. He said a possible conflict between GOP lawmakers' marriage legislation -- they put a same sex marriage ban on this year's ballot -- and the exposure of an extramarital affair in their own ranks wasn't reason to terminate him either.

But he also conceded the scandal and its mounting legal bills may take a GOP toll in the elections.

"As a loyal Republican, and as someone who worked as anyone else to ensure that the Senate Republicans won the majority in 2010, I understand that this situation could have an impact on it," he said.

Brodkorb said he's breaking his silence now because senators he used to work for have been suggesting he'd had a history of problems before his firing, and have been discussing the case publicly, he feels in violation of a federal gag order. He says the judge's order on Friday -- rather than the looming election of the people he's suing -- is the reason he's talking now.

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