In a divided voice vote, the Minnesota Senate Rules Committee approved spending nearly $85,000 on legal fees related to an affair between former Senate Republican Majority Leader Amy Koch and fired chief Senate communications staffer Michael Brodkorb.
As of May this year, the Senate racked up about $84,600 in legal bills from its attorney Dayle Nolan. Brodkorb, who was fired suddenly in December after it was revealed Koch was having an affair with a staffer, is threatening to sue the state Senate for wrongful termination. He has also said he may sue Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman for defamation after Ludeman said Brodkorb was trying to “extort” a payment from the chamber.
Nolan, an employment attorney with the firm Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren, is charging the Senate $330 an hour to work on the case.
In an end of session move, the Senate voted to approve spending up to $50,000 on legal fees from the case in the interim. But Nolan’s bill through March already nearly hit that figure, and didn’t include the hours she sat in ethics hearings surrounding GOP Sen. Geoff Michel’s role in revealing the affair. That triggered the need for the committee to meet Wednesday and approve the extra funds.
Brodkorb filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March, and his attorneys say they expect a ruling within weeks. That would open the door for Brodkorb to officially file a lawsuit against the Senate.
DFLers on the committee expressed concern that legal costs will only grow. Sen. James Metzen said the Senate could end up paying between $250,000 and $500,000 to settle the matter. That prospect, he said, “scares the dickens out of me.”
DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said Brodkorb has threatened multiple lawsuits, all which could lead to lengthy, expensive legal battles. “What happens when the other shoe drops?” Bakk asked, suggesting that the chamber set up a legal defense fund to raise money to pay off its lawyers. “There’s going to be other bills coming, and somewhere, some day, someone is going to settle this or it’s going to drag on for who knows how long.”