It had to have been a long July 4th weekend for at least 10 families, perhaps with plenty of fireworks.
After all, how would you react if a reporter called to tell you that you were on a list of people who allegedly had an affair, and that list had surfaced in a court document?
Oh, and it might eventually end up in the news.
Enjoy the weekend!
That’s what happened last weekend when a new filing popped up in the case of Michael Brodkorb vs. the Minnesota Senate.
The file, which included a list of 10 current or former legislators and six staffers who were reputed to have had affairs in the past, was posted electronically for a few minutes around 4 p.m. on July 3.
The file was supposed to be confidential. But the Associated Press and an MPR reporter had set up alerts to notify them whenever a new document was filed in the case. They quickly downloaded the case file.
Attorney Dayle Nolan, who is representing the Senate against Brodkorb’s allegations that he was treated differently than others for having an affair with his boss, saw the alert, too.
She quickly notified the judge and Brodkorb’s attorney, Philip Villaume, and the document was removed. But it was too late.
On Thursday, Nolan called for sanctions against Villaume for failing to keep the list confidential.
Nolan won’t directly say whether she thinks the leak was intentional, but the fact she’s calling for sanctions probably speaks for itself.
She also directed me to the court document that clearly outlines how confidential documents should be handled. In most cases, confidential documents put into a public court file are clearly marked. A placeholder — not the document — goes into the electronic file to let people know there is a confidential document, which itself is usually put into an envelope and hand-delivered to court.
Villaume is a good lawyer who has been around longer than I have. He has said it was a mistake. If so, it was a pretty egregious one that threatens the reputations of many people, who may or may not have had illicit affairs.
Those names may come out eventually, if this case ever goes to trial. Or if any of the journalists who now have the list decides to publish it.
According to AP writers Brian Bakst and Patrick Condon, the reporters who broke the story and had the ugly job of letting people know they were on Brodkorb’s dirty-laundry list, there is “scant evidence to back up his allegations. The affairs would have occurred under different leaders than those who fired Brodkorb. Most of the supposed affairs involved no direct boss-subordinate relationship.”
That’s an important detail, if Brodkorb is trying to prove he was treated differently than others in a similar situation.
The AP reporters left the people on the list alone until the day after the holiday, then began making calls to (mostly) former legislators to ask them if they’d had an affair.
I’ve been there, so I think I can make an educated guess that Bakst and Condon had pretty miserable holiday weekends, too.
In the end, the AP made a good call and reported on the existence of the list without naming anyone on it.
MPR decided not to report on the list until it became a court issue Thursday. Reporters have chased rumors and gossip since this story began, and while one party might like to see some of it aired, the media has thus far avoided being reckless.
Whether or not the list was filed by mistake or on purpose, I don’t see it as helping Brodkorb’s case at all, especially if the AP’s reporting is correct in saying that the other alleged cases differ considerably from Brodkorb’s.
Nolan reiterated Friday that the Senate is continuing to fight Brodkorb on principle.
She said the Senate leaders consistently have explained that they don’t want to pay someone when they are so convinced by law and fact that they have done nothing wrong.
I used to think the Democrats were against settling this case because they wanted to keep this sad carnival in the public eye, and the Republicans were against settling because they were stubborn.
But I’m beginning to think legislators are refusing to settle because it would set a bad precedent, and just perhaps because they are right.