U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan on Thursday ordered the state of Minnesota and former Republican Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb into confidential settlement talks.

Boylan called for negotiations to begin at a private hearing Sept. 24 at the federal courthouse in downtown Minneapolis. He asked both sides to submit confidential letters outlining their settlement positions.

Meanwhile, Brodkorb has dropped half the 10 claims against his former employer, including that the Senate and Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman violated his privacy.

Brodkorb filed a lawsuit in July claiming gender bias when he was fired as the Senate GOP's powerful communications chief.

Late last year, then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch stepped down from her leadership position after fellow GOP senators confronted her about an affair with Brodkorb, one of her top deputies.

With Koch out of the way, the Senate's new leaders ordered Brodkorb fired. Brodkorb had a reputation as a bruising and persuasive operative, but also gained powerful critics as he took on the role of behind-the-scenes enforcer to keep the caucus in line.

Brodkorb contends he was treated differently from female employees who had trysts with male legislative leaders and did not lose their jobs. The Senate argues that Brodkorb was an at-will employee and could be let go at any time for any reason.

The Minnesota Senate has already spent more than $100,000 in legal fees defending the suit.

Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, has said they will do whatever they can to minimize the impact on taxpayers, who will pay the cost of any settlement.

The judge also imposed a gag order, preventing both sides from discussing the case in public or to the media.

Baird Helgeson • 651-925-5044