The Minnesota Senate is discovering that defending itself from sex-scandal-related legal threats is expensive.
On Friday, Senate officials disclosed that they owe $46,150 for three months of legal fees -- and the bill will only grow.
The bill from Dayle Nolan, a private attorney the Senate hired to defend it against possible litigation by ex-employee Michael Brodkorb, goes through only March of this year. Brodkorb has threatened to sue but has not yet filed any charges in a courtroom.
The stark numbers shed light on the fiscal costs of a scandal that has inflicted hefty political damage for months.
In an emotional meeting late last year, Republican senators confronted then-Majority Leader Amy Koch about allegations that she was having an affair with Brodkorb, then the Senate communications director. She was offered a choice if the allegations were true: Resign as majority leader or Senate Republicans would share news of the affair.
Koch resigned and the next day Brodkorb was fired. Senate officials have said that Brodkorb was an "at will" employee who could be let go at any time and that his services were no longer needed because Koch was no longer majority leader.
Since then, Brodkorb said he plans to sue the Senate over his dismissal and over alleged defamation. He filed paperwork in March with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming gender discrimination was at the root of his termination because female employees who had affairs with lawmakers were treated differently.
His attorneys have said he needs clearance from the EEOC before he can levy charges in a courtroom.
The Senate's legal bills have ticked past what Brodkorb would have made had he been kept on staff through mid-year.
Nolan's firm billed the Senate for 169 hours of work, and the tally includes only part of the time she worked with the Senate.
The breakdown includes one $3,960 charge for Nolan's preparation for and attendance at a March Senate ethics committee hearing dealing with charges that a former Senate leader mishandled the affair. It does not include the charges for her attendance at an equally long April meeting. That panel deadlocked on charges that former Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel violated proper Senate behavior by not disclosing his knowledge of the affair before December and then misleading the press about when he discovered the affair.
At the time, senators said they had to limit their discussions of the matter because a full conversation could damage the Senate's position in the potential Brodkorb litigation.
The bill from Nolan, who charged $330 an hour, also includes repeated references to conferences or meetings with Senate counsel Tom Bottern, Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman, and senators, including Michel, who brought his own attorney to the ethics committee meetings.
It's not clear when the bill will be paid or when the Senate will receive another bill.
Ludeman said this week that he needed approval from current Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem and Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk before cutting the check.
Bakk has been on a fishing trip and unreachable but had earlier voiced concerns about the Senate paying large legal bills without having a public hearing first.
"That's wrong and it's fiscally irresponsible," he said earlier this month.
Senjem has said the Senate should pay the legal bills it owes but added this week that he is weighing the cost of fighting Brodkorb vs. the cost of settling.
"How much time do you put into something like this and what do you get out of it?" Senjem wondered out loud this week.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @rachelsb