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A pair of DFL legislators on Monday charged that a top Senate Republican lied about his knowledge of an affair between a staffer and former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and brought the Senate into "dishonor and disrepute."
In an ethics complaint filed against Sen. Geoff Michel, the former deputy Senate majority leader, the Democrats raise charges stemming from Republicans' handling of Koch's relationship with former staffer Michael Brodkorb. In December, announcing Koch's decision to resign from her leadership post, Michel said he had only recently learned of the relationship, but he later admitted he had known about the relationship for months.
Michel, an Edina Republican who lost his leadership post in the wake of the episode, said the complaint is "about politics and payback and has nothing to do with ethics. The DFL wants a few more headlines."
Said Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook: "It appears like he was trying to execute a coverup."
The complaint will require the Senate to hold a hearing and renews public scrutiny of a period of turmoil that Republican legislators have said they wish to put behind them. Last week, lawyers for Brodkorb, who was fired after Koch's resignation, raised the specter of interviewing all current and former legislators who have had affairs with staffers to prove his allegations of wrongful termination.
In mid-December, Michel and other senators confronted Koch about rumors of her affair with Brodkorb, who was her subordinate. She resigned, and Michel found himself in charge of the Senate majority caucus.
The day after Koch's resignation, Michel and other senators held a news conference to air the charges that Koch quit because of an "inappropriate relationship" with a staffer. The next week, he admitted he had known about it since September of last year.
Michel and Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, a Rochester Republican who got his job after Koch resigned, said on Monday that Michel did nothing wrong. "Senator Michel acted in a forthright and, I think, a professional fashion as I think everybody ... involved in that incident did," Senjem said. "He does not deserve to be before an ethics committee."
Not seeking re-election
Senjem said Bakk knew the circumstances surrounding the incident and that filing a complaint now is "pure politics."
Michel, who has since announced he will not seek re-election, said he wants the issue resolved quickly, with an immediate review by the Senate subcommittee on Ethical Conduct, which will determine its merits.
For months, Senate Democrats have raised the possibility of an ethics complaint against Michel. Bakk and Sen. Sandy Pappas, a St. Paul DFLer who signed the complaint, said they waited to file the charges until they were sure that Republicans did not plan any follow-up of their own.
Bakk and Pappas said Michel should publicly apologize on the Senate floor. Such acts of contrition are not unheard of in the Legislature. In 2006, then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, apologized on the Senate floor to settle an ethics complaint lodged over incorrect statements he made about the state Supreme Court's intent to act on gay marriage issues. Michel was one of the signers of that complaint.
The Democrats said they had no complaint against Koch, who admitted to a relationship with a staffer, because she had been punished enough.
"Senator Koch has already paid a significant price ... I think that would probably appear like piling on," Bakk said.
Staff writer Jennifer Brooks contributed to this report. Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @rachelsb
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