The Minnesota Senate will pay former Republican staffer Michael Brodkorb $30,000 to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit that it has already spent more than $300,000 to defend.
The settlement announced Thursday heads off a trial that was scheduled to begin next year. It was also far less than $500,000 in damages that Brodkorb had been seeking.
Brodkorb lost his Senate job in 2011 after the revelation of his sexual affair with then-Republican Majority Leader Amy Koch. He claimed in the lawsuit that his firing was unfair compared to other employees who had been caught up in similar circumstances.
Standing outside the federal courthouse in Minneapolis, Brodkorb told reporters he was happy to have the matter behind him. He described it as a "quality of life issue." But the longtime political operative was also considering other potential ramifications.
"This was scheduled to go forward in the midst of an election year in 2014, and I had no interest seeing this situation play itself out like it did during 2012 elections," Brodkorb said.
Brodkorb had previously suggested he was willing to name names of others who were involved in sexual affairs at the State Capitol. Then earlier this summer, his legal team briefly disclosed some of those alleged trysts in an errant posting of confidential documents on a court web site. They said it was an unintentional mistake, but Senate lawyers claimed it was a deliberate act and asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
Now that there's an agreement to settle, Brodkorb said he was pleased that those names will not come out in a trial.
"It will be left up to families in the privacy of their own home to discuss matters similar to what I experienced in similar situations, and it I won't come out in the glare of a lawsuit," he said. "For that, as somebody who has always been concerned about the privacy of names and families, I'm glad that this matter is closed."
Brodkorb said he wouldn't have agreed to a settlement amount that didn't make sense to him. He said he will pay his own legal bill but did not put a number on it.
The Senate has already spent more than $300,000 in legal fees for its defense. Senate leaders from both parties maintained all along that the termination was legitimate, because Brodkorb was an at-will employee.
DFL Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Republican Minority Leader David Hann issued a joint statement highlighting the terms of the settlement. They said the $30,000 was a severance payment that they had previously offered Brodkorb before he filed his lawsuit.
Bakk, who was not available for an interview, said in the statement that the matter had been resolved in the best interests of taxpayers and the Senate.
Hann said the agreement acknowledges that the facts of the case don’t support any of the claims made against the Senate.
"Nobody likes to see a lawsuit and be a party to a lawsuit, particularly one where public monies have to be expended to defend yourself. But we think and have maintained that it's the right thing to do. We don't want to set the precedent that the Senate is subject to being sued by former employees."
The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration must still approve the settlement payment to Brodkorb. That panel is expected to meet Monday.
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