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Senate ethics committee restart? Not clear

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Democrats, Republicans Updated: March 27, 2012 - 2:58 PM

When will the Minnesota Senate ethics committee deal with the ethics complaint against GOP Sen. Geoff Michel? Unclear.

The committee met for more than two hours on Friday afternoon to judge whether GOP Sen. Geoff Michel lied or dishonored the Senate when he handled the affair between former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and former Senate employee Michael Brodkorb and deadlocked. Democrats have two votes on the committee and Republicans have two.

It was supposed to take the issue back up late Friday night but the Republicans never showed up. That left Democrats in the lurch having waited past 10 p.m. for the committee to re-start.

On Monday, it's still not clear of or when Republicans will-start the deliberations.

"There's no new news on that," Monday morning said Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester. He said he had not talked to committee chair, GOP Sen. Michelle Fischbach, about the issue since Friday.

On the Senate floor Monday, Sen. Sandy Pappas, the St. Paul Democrat who filed the ethics complaint, said she wanted answers.

“Do we have any explanation as to why she (Fischbach) didn’t return to the ethics subcommittee?” Pappas asked.

Senjem had few answers. He said that Fischbach was not at the Capitol Monday.

“On advice of counsel, we were asked to suspend the proceedings that evening. The leadership did have a meeting with Senate counsel this morning and we will see where this goes, going forward. I’m not going to say anything more about this, going forward, again, on advice of counsel," Senjem told Senators on the floor.

The legal issues to which Senjem is referring: Brodkorb, a longtime Republican insider and former Senate communications director, has threatened to sue over his dismissal.

Brodkorb, who was fired one day after Koch resigned from leadership in the wake of a confrontation over the affair they were having, claims he was discriminated against because he is a man. He says that women who have affairs with lawmakers were treated differently.

The suit, which has yet to be filed, could take months or even years to work its way out.

Update:

DFL Chair Ken Martin added his own condemnation, saying Republicans were "subverting the Senate's process for ethical oversight."

"By sweeping a serious ethics complaint under the rug," Martin said. "Republicans look like they're trying to cover up a cover up, and they are only reinforcing Minnesotans' distrust of many of their elected leaders. Senator Michel and the Republican caucus have brought dishonor and shame to the Capitol and we must hold these elected officials accountable for their attempts to hide the truth and cover up their lies."

With reporting by Jennifer Brooks.

 

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