ST. PAUL, Minn. — Leaders of the Minnesota Senate set aside another $500,000 Wednesday for future legal costs as they fight a federal lawsuit of a former senior aide, vowing in bipartisan fashion to press on rather than settle the case.
The allowance is part of a new Senate budget for the 12 months beginning July 1. Ex-communications staffer Michael Brodkorb's lawsuit alleging wrongful termination is due for trial next summer. Depositions, motions and other actions in the coming months are expected to drive up the state's legal fees — paid to a private firm — that have already reached $225,000.
Brodkorb was fired in late 2011 after the Republican staffer's affair with then-Majority Leader Amy Koch became public. Brodkorb, who earned $90,000 a year, is suing for gender discrimination, arguing that women staff members involved in Capitol affairs in the past were treated differently than he was. Koch stepped down from her leadership post but served out the remaining year of her term.
Current Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, insisted that none of the new money put in the legal contingency account will be used to settle the case. He said he agrees with interpretation of the Senate's attorneys that Brodkorb's termination was handled properly and that settling the case would leave the public with the opposite impression.
"The only way I think that we would settle that is if we learn something in depositions that I don't know today," Bakk said. "Based on the information I have seen today, I don't see a settlement in the works."
He said it's possible the state's litigation costs could exceed the amount set aside.
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, also advocated for moving ahead even as costs mount.
"We did things in the right way for the right reasons," Hann said of Brodkorb's firing. "You can't prevent lawsuits but you shouldn't reward them."
Brodkorb issued a brief statement defending his decision to sue.
"I filed this lawsuit because I believe I was wrongfully terminated by the Minnesota Senate," he said. "I'm confident when the facts surrounding my termination are heard in court and the actions by representatives of the Minnesota Senate are compared with federal employment law, I will be vindicated."