Fired Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb tells of 'palace coup'

Ex-Senate staffer says he was victim of a plot against Sen. Amy Koch.

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Michael Brodkorb

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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Michael Brodkorb said Sunday that state Senate Republicans were more concerned with politics than propriety when they fired him after he had an affair with then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch.

"The only logical conclusion that I've drawn is that what was being done was an attempt to organize an absolute palace coup and to get Sen. Koch out and those close to her," said Brodkorb, a longtime Republican operative fired from his job as Senate communications director. He spoke at length for the first time since Koch resigned from leadership and he was fired.

His new openness about the matters that have rocked the state Capitol for nearly a year comes as Democrats and Republicans battle for control of the Senate in the November election.

Asked about Brodkorb's allegation on Sunday, Republican Sen. David Hann, who was involved in confronting Koch about the affair in December, denied any political motivation for his actions.

"Of course, it's not true," said Hann, R-Eden Prairie.

Hann, who narrowly lost his bid to be majority leader after Koch resigned, also questioned the reasons for Brodkorb's accusation, noting that Brodkorb is suing the Senate over his firing.

"You have to consider the source," Hann said.

Earlier this year, Brodkorb filed a federal civil suit against the Senate, claiming female legislative employees were allowed to keep their jobs after they had affairs with current and former lawmakers. To prove his case, he said, he compiled a list of names of current and former lawmakers who have had affairs.

"The list of names that I have has been in the hands of my attorneys for quite some time," he told the Star Tribune. "It will be handled in a responsible way, which will be the exact opposite of how the representatives and the leadership of the Senate Republican caucus dealt with matters related to me."

He said he first admitted the affair to then-Senate Chief of Staff Cullen Sheehan, who Brodkorb said he considered a longtime and sympathetic friend, in September of last year. Brodkorb said he and Sheehan were working on finding other job possibilities in the Senate, as was the Senate policy, which would negate the direct boss-employee relationship he and Koch had.

"Cullen made it abundantly clear that I did not need to leave [the Senate] and that our conversations were going to remain confidential," Brodkorb said. He added that his family knew about the affair before it became public knowledge.

Sheehan later said he had revealed the affair to then-Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, in September. Michel did not return a call from the Star Tribune Sunday night.

Between September and December of last year, Brodkorb continued in his position and Koch remained as majority leader. Then in mid-December several senators, including Michel, Hann and others, confronted Koch about the affair.

Koch resigned the next day and Senate leaders revealed she did so because she was having an affair with a then-unnamed Senate staffer. The day after she resigned, Brodkorb was fired.

Senate leaders have said Brodkorb was an "at will" employee, who could be let go at any time.

On Sunday, Brodkorb would not say when the affair started or whether he and Koch are still together.

He was both penitent about the "pain and anguish that I caused to my family and my friends and others," and insistent that he would aggressively pursue his legal case.

"I am going to defend myself and prove my case passionately and vigorously," he said.

A federal judge had imposed a gag order in the case, requiring silence of all parties, late last month as the parties were in settlement talks. That order was lifted on Friday.

According to the order lifting the gag, the parties met but "no settlement was reached and no further settlement discussions are presently scheduled."

The Senate had spent more than $100,000 on legal fees related to the matter by this summer, before the case reached a courtroom.

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @rachelsb

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