The Minnesota Senate has settled a lawsuit with Michael Brodkorb for $30,000, far less than the former GOP spokesman sought in his wrongful-termination lawsuit.
“I am glad to have this over with,” Brodkorb said Thursday. “This is about putting this matter behind me and allowing me to get my life back and wake up tomorrow with this not on my shoulders.”
The settlement ends the most riveting legal showdown at the Capitol in recent history, with the notoriously combative former communications chief threatening to churn up romantic affairs of current and former lawmakers in what promised to be a high-stakes courtroom political drama.
In the end, Brodkorb settled for what the Senate claims is the same severance package he was offered two years ago and agreed to pay his own legal fees. Brodkorb also acknowledged that the facts of the case did not support his gender discrimination claim. Taxpayers have already spent more than $300,000 in legal fees defending the Senate. The body’s Rules Committee will need to approve the payment.
“We are pleased to have successfully resolved this matter in the best interests of taxpayers and the institution of the Minnesota Senate,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. “This agreement permanently dismisses Mr. Brodkorb’s claims in their entirety while providing the limited severance pay that was offered to him before he commenced litigation.”
Brodkorb, however, disputes the Senate account. “They did not offer me a severance package,” he said.
Brodkorb was fired late in 2011 after then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch admitted the two were having a romantic affair. Both were married to other people at the time. Koch resigned her leadership position, and the interim head of the GOP caucus then ordered Brodkorb be fired.
A longtime GOP political operative, Brodkorb filed a wrongful termination lawsuit seeking $500,000. He argued that he had been treated differently than female staffers caught in similar romantic relationships with elected officials. Brodkorb threatened to bring those other relationships to light to prove his case, which had the potential to create political and personal problems for current and former legislators.
Pressing for a settlement
Over the past couple of weeks, lawyers had been deposing senators and others directly involved in the case.
Greg Walsh, Brodkorb’s attorney, said that the federal magistrate judge met with both sides for much of Thursday and pressed for a settlement.
“After a long, hard day of mediation, [the judge] was able to put together a fair and reasonable resolution to the lawsuit,” Walsh said. “At the end of the day, we realized there could be some difficulty moving forward with the gender discrimination claim.”
The resolution of the case will spare legislators and staffers from the threat of having their affairs exposed in court, Brodkorb said.
“It will be left up to families in the privacy of their own home to discuss matters similar to what I experienced,” Brodkorb said. “It won’t come out in the glare of a lawsuit.”
Senate GOP leaders confronted Koch in a secret meeting at the Minneapolis Club and, she has said, gave her a choice: Resign from the Senate leadership or they would expose the affair. GOP leaders in the room that night have said they were there to confront Koch about rumors of the relationship and plot a course forward.
With Koch out, then-Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman surprised Brodkorb in a restaurant where he was having lunch with a colleague and told him he was fired.
Praise from Republicans
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, one of the legislators who confronted Koch at the Minneapolis Club, said he is relieved by the settlement.
“We have said all along that the Senate acted appropriately in this matter,” said Hann, R-Eden Prairie. “I am pleased that this agreement acknowledges that the facts of the case do not support any of the claims against the Senate and that the case has been dismissed.”
Koch and Brodkorb had been widely credited with helping Republicans win control of the Minnesota Senate for the first time in 40 years. After Koch’s fall and Brodkorb’s dismissal, DFLers won back control in 2012 election.
Brodkorb said one factor urging him to settle was not wanting this lawsuit to hurt GOP chances in 2014. The affair occasionally came up at local political forums in which the GOP candidate had no involvement in the affair or the lawsuit.
“I had no interest in seeing this situation play itself out like it did during the 2012 elections,” Brodkorb said. “That wore on me greatly.”
Koch and her husband divorced, and she did not run for re-election. After leaving office, she bought a bowling alley in Maple Lake.
“I think that by settling, he did Republicans a big favor in 2014,” Koch said. “Mostly I am glad because there would have been a lot of other families hurt. I am glad that is all ended now.”
Brodkorb, 39, said he and Koch are no longer involved romantically. He lives with his wife and children in Eagan, maintains a political blog and is a University of Minnesota student.
“This has been very hard on my family, and I greatly appreciate their support throughout this,” Brodkorb said. “Regardless of the strikes against me that some people have, I feel like my best days are yet to come.”