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Why did Michel wait before dealing with Brodkorb-Koch relationship?

Sen. Geoff Michel, Sen. Amy Koch, Michael Brodkorb
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
DFL state Sen. Sandy Pappas wants to know why former Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel, left, waited to take appropriate action in addressing the affair between state Sen. Amy Koch, center, and Michael Brodkorb, right.

In her ethics complaint, DFL state Sen. Sandy Pappas wants to know why former deputy Senate majority leader Geoff Michel waited “to take appropriate action to fully and swiftly address the alleged inappropriate relationship between the Senate majority leader and a subordinate Senate employee until its public disclosure was imminent.”

The answer may lie in a timeline of events that led some Senate Republicans to initially stall -- hoping for a quiet resolution -- then take sudden action after they concluded that further delays in dismantling the powerful Michael Brodkorb-Amy Koch alliance would result in political embarrassment.  

The timeline goes back to Sept. 21, the date that former Senate GOP caucus Chief of Staff Cullen Sheehan says he confronted the pair, who admitted but did not end their relationship. Sheehan, by one account, was almost tearful about the problem he could not solve.

“Your hope is that they’ve been confronted, that they will do the right thing,” Michel, an Edina Republican, said in an interview with me last December. “So, then we knew confronting them does not work. We studied the problem. We had to see what the legal and HR pieces were.”

Abrupt resignation

Then, in October, came Brodkorb’s abrupt resignation as deputy chair of the state Republican Party – just days before the party announced it was deeply in debt. Party Chair Tony Sutton resigned almost immediately after that. At a meeting of the party’s central committee in December to choose Sutton’s replacement, Brodkorb admitted he confronted gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, telling Emmer he had a share of responsibility for the debt.

The blowup and turmoil in the party appeared to give Senate leadership the opening they wanted to take the action they thought they needed. The move to confront Koch and Brodkorb with a blunt instrument rather than finesse had an additional layer of support from senators who were chafing at Brodkorb’s enthusiasm and skill in negotiations for stadium legislation.  (It should be noted that Michel was also a supporter of stadium legislation and the proposal to pay for the state's share with gambling revenue.)

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Koch resigned as majority leader Dec. 15. Brodkorb was fired Dec. 16. It wasn’t until a news conference two weeks later that Michel revealed he had blurred the timeline, saying he was trying to protect Sheehan, who left the Senate for a lobbying job. Sheehan now works for Lockridge Grindahl Nauen, a lobbying firm that represents tribal gaming interests and has lobbied against the stadium gambling proposals that Brodkorb had supported. Michel lost his leadership position after the Brodkorb-Koch relationship became public.

A different approach

Pappas sounded sympathetic to Michel’s plight but maintains her caucus would have handled it differently.

“That’s why you have human relations people,” she said. “You go to HR people, say something’s not appropriate and ask: ‘What do you recommend? What should our caucus do?’”

She said the Senate employs just such a non-partisan human resources expert, Wendy Dwyer.

The Senate must hold an ethics hearing within 30 days of the filing of the complaint.  Pappas doesn’t know yet the date of the hearing, nor does she know who, if anyone, including Brodkorb, will testify or whether the committee simply will ask Michel for an apology.

By now, though, those details may be irrelevant to the Senate Republican caucus, which is seeing a mushroom cloud in the political embarrassment it wanted to avoid.

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Comments (5)

From a citizen's perspective

We may never know WHY he waited.

We DO know why he LIED in his press conference. He wanted to give the public a dishonest account of his handling of the matter.

The attorney general should be charging AMY KOCH with sexual harrassment and the folks who tried to mishandle it should be charged with conspiracy. Failure to charge Koch and Michels with anything smacks of our federal Justice Department and it's failures to charge and/or prosecute obvious violations of law (torture and fraud...).

Moral bankruptcy to the rescue.

"Blurring" a timeline is called lying. Michel lied to the press and his fellow legislators. No "time-line" explains that dishonesty. The problem isn't Michel's delayed response, it's his dishonesty. If he's claiming that he gets to lie with impunity to his colleges and the public because he was protecting Sheehan, that has nothing to do with a timeline. I'll be interested so see make that argument by the way. I remind these are the guys who always promise to bring good business practices, accountability, and character to government. Then they blow a situation like this, and instead of simply admitting they blew it they try to produce "explanations" and further undermine their credibility.

By the way, although Ms. Brucato's articles have improved since she started, I think this article smacks of public relations. It attempts to pretend the delay rather than the dishonesty is the issue and the timeline explanation looks more like an attempt to obscure than clarify the central issue. The central issue that is emerging is the way Brodkorb was fired, not the delay. Brodkorp isn't suing because they didn't fire him sooner.

I need to buy TWO irony meters

First, Mr. Brodkorb files a suit suggesting he's the victim of gender discrimination, thus proving, among other things, that he's quite capable of dishing it out, but can't take it, and now there's this:

“…they concluded that further delays in dismantling the powerful Michael Brodkorb-Amy Koch alliance would be result in political embarrassment.”

And what we observe at present is, if I may steal a phrase, the mother of all political embarrassments. Yes, of course this is the sort of thing that's not party-specific, and defenders of the right will quickly trot out their own examples of Democrats who've themselves been less-than-faithful and/or less-than-discreet. None of that alters the calculus of the moment, which is, as we head into a lengthy campaign season, not helping GOP prospects in the slightest.

cover-up

Most legal pundits would say the cover-up is often worst than the crime. Too many lawyers in state government who think they can talk their way out of political and legal mis-steps. Legislators should take a pledge (common in Republican politics) that if they have an affair with any capital employee or elected official they will resign so their duties as a legislator or staff will not interfere with their love life.
I lived in Washington, DC for a number of years, I could care less who sleeps with whom, but don't bring all the baggage to your job and that includes Gingrich and a few others.

He who.....

Lives by the sword shall die by it.