Allegations of an improper relationship with a legislative staffer are what pushed former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch to abruptly resign her post Thursday and announce she would not seek re-election in 2012, GOP caucus leaders confirmed at a Capitol news conference Friday.
They would not identify the staffer in question, citing legal concerns, but said it was a male staffer and someone who reported directly to Koch. Senate Republican leaders hastily held a news conference Friday afternoon after WCCO-TV reported the allegations less than an hour earlier.
Sens. David Hann, Geoff Michel, Claire Robling and Chris Gerlach confronted Koch about the alleged relationship Wednesday evening after at least two complaints were raised within the caucus over the last several weeks.
The GOP leaders said that Koch neither confirmed nor denied the existence of any inappropriate relationship. Koch brought up the possibility of her resignation during the meeting, but reportedly said she wanted to talk with her family before making any decisions. Her sudden resignation Thursday evening was a surprise to rank-and-file Senate Republicans and members of the leadership team.
“There’s no doubt that a manager cannot have such a relationship with someone they oversee, whose budget they oversee,” said Michel, who is acting as interim Majority Leader. “Whether it’s the public or private sector, it’s pretty clear.”
When asked if the Senate staffer involved in the alleged relationship was still employed with the caucus, Michel said, “I believe so.” Michel also said he does not believe the staffer changed jobs at all during Koch’s tenure as majority leader.
Michel stressed that they felt legally and ethically obligated to confront Koch about the alleged relationship, adding that he now hopes they can quickly elect a new majority leader and shift focus to the 2012 legislative agenda. According to GOP Senate caucus bylaws, a new majority leader must be elected within two weeks of an official resignation. In a letter to caucus members on Thursday, Michel said they will elect a new leader by December 29.
“This is probably not our finest week,” Michel said. “We get that.”
Koch, who led election efforts for the caucus in 2010, is widely attributed with capturing the state’s first-ever modern Republican majority in the Senate. As majority leader, Koch sparred with Gov. Mark Dayton over a solution to patch the state’s $5 billion budget deficit, which ultimately led to a historic, 20-day shuttering of state government.
Former Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem said the news is “anguishing and painful,” adding that the senators’ “love and respect for Senator Koch remains and remains strong.” The senators said they have had little contact with Koch since their Wednesday meeting.
Koch’s resignation comes at a chaotic time for Minnesota Republicans. GOP Party Chair Tony Sutton abruptly resigned two weeks ago amid controversy over the party’s debt. Deputy Party Chair Michael Brodkorb also recently resigned to run Sen. Mike Parry’s campaign for Congress, and Senate GOP Chief of Staff Cullen Sheehan stepped down just last month to take a lobbying job.