It wasn't a DFL problem, but all schadenfreude aside, now it is.
The 2011 legal battle triggered by termination of former GOP Senate Caucus communications director Michael Brodkorb due to an “inappropriate relationship” with GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch has been an absolute blast for Minnesota DFLers.
Koch, the first female Senate majority leader in state history, accepted responsibility, resigned that position and decided not to run for re-election to the Senate. Senate secretary Cal Ludeman terminated Brodkorb in a public restaurant. Brodkorb then sued the Senate, alleging wrongful termination.
The basis of Brodkorb’s legal claim is that similarly situated female employees were not fired. As a lawyer, political operative and longtime reporter, it strikes me that this case is solid. This situation has happened before at the Capitol, but what’s different is that Brodkorb was terminated and four male GOP state senators held a news conference, making a private human-resource issue a front-page story — and fodder for the DFL.
Along the way, we all enjoyed some straight-faced, specious posturing by these senators, who pontificated about the need to return to GOP “family values,” and why Koch should resign for the good of her family, the party and the state. Not inconsequentially, these same male GOP senators stood to rise in leadership stature if Koch resigned.
This week, the Senate Rules Committee will approve almost $28,000 in additional legal bills “defending” the Minnesota Senate against Brodkorb’s lawsuit. Before the lawsuit was even filed, the Senate spent close to $100,000 in legal fees, included time spent by a taxpayer-funded attorney to sit in an ethics committee to hear a complaint triggered by inaccurate public statements made by a GOP senator about the termination.
Back to the $28,000: That bill is for just three months of legal work. The Larkin Hoffman lawyers (for the record, chosen by the GOP when it had control) are billing as much as $1,250 per hour for four attorneys and a paralegal to work on this case. This legal mess has dragged on for more than 18 months, and the trial is not scheduled until summer 2014. At this rate, the taxpayers could be looking at bills of close to $1 million before this case even gets to trial.
On Sunday, it was reported by the Star Tribune that Michelle Fischbach, then president of the Senate, told Brodkorb in the days after he was terminated that she thought “there has been an incredible double standard here.” I could not agree more with Fischbach.
Ask any lawyer, or anyone who has hired a lawyer. These legal expenses will grow exponentially as the case gets closer to a trial and/or actually goes to trial. The statements made by Fischbach in 2011 will only trigger more to be spent on this case by taxpayers.
Before the 2012 election, DFLers viewed Brodkorb’s lawsuit as a GOP problem. They were right. It was a GOP problem then, but now that DFLers are running things, it’s a DFL problem.
Some Democrats say it’s in their best interests not to settle, in large part because Brodkorb was notoriously good at attacking Democrats (he founded the website Minnesota Democrats Exposed). Some also say it will be great to have the “hypocrisy” of GOP “family values” in play in yet another election.
To all that, this Republican says, “Settle it.” The last two years the DFL, with its complete control over state government, has taken our state in a dramatically different direction than what Republicans did the last 10 years before that. It’s that DFL direction that should be front and center before Minnesota voters, not some legal mess created by an employment issue bungled due to political ambitions.
The DFL direction is tax increases not only on the wealthy, but the far-from-wealthy who smoke; it’s a 13 percent permanent increase in the size of state government; it’s unionizing private sector day care workers; it’s making banning gasoline and diesel, coal and natural gas official state policy.
Finally, as the DFLers who run the Senate Rules Committee well know, the gist of Brodkorb’s lawsuit is that he, as a man, was fired after having an affair with a woman superior (Koch), and that many a female staffer has had affairs with males in power but the female staffers didn’t lose their jobs (and the males in charge certainly did not resign).
That’s all true. Anyone who has spent significant time at the Capitol knows it.
Brodkorb may go down as the most famous (or infamous?) political operative in state history. But now it’s up to Senate majority DFLers to decide whether to add “DFL-approved million dollar lawsuit paid for by taxpayers” to the last chapter of this tale.
Settle it, and let’s close this book.
Sarah Janecek lives in Minneapolis. She is a former lawyer and political publisher. She has always remained a Republican.
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