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Michael Brodkorb ‘faces uphill battle’

Wisconsin’s mysterious underground “booms”;  cleanup at dilapidated apartments; a massive check-kiting case; metro political races; school nixes porn-star prom date; Strib on the stadium; and more.

The once-ubiquitous Michael Brodkorb made a rare live, personal appearance Wednesday as he moves toward legal action against the Minnesota Senate. At the Strib, Rachel Stassen-Berger’s story says: “Many steps remain before Brodkorb could actually sue the Senate, but he made it clear that he is prepared to take his former employer to court if necessary. Breaking his three-month public silence on the issue, Brodkorb, known as a bruiser in Republican politics, said he wished he could have settled the issue quietly. … Dayle Nolan, the attorney the Senate hired to deal with the matter, said last week that there had been no negotiations toward mediation. Nolan and Senate officials did not return requests for comment on Brodkorb’s filing. The filing keeps the spotlight on a period that Republican lawmakers have said they would like to put behind them. The Senate on Friday will be confronted with another reminder — an ethics committee will consider a complaint over how Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, former deputy majority leader, handled the issue. … David Allen Larson, professor of labor and employment law at Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, said Brodkorb may have an ‘uphill battle.’ The only way for Brodkorb to prove his case is to find an identical situation — a female staffer who carried on an affair with a high-ranking member of the leadership — that was handled differently from his own, Larson said. He will further have to prove that he lost his job just because he is a man, not because his bosses didn’t like him, didn’t approve of his job performance or thought he exercised poor judgment in his relations with the married Senate majority leader. ‘The burden of persuasion will be on him,’ Larson said. ‘Whenever a man brings a sexual discrimination claim, it always raises eyebrows.’ “

Amy Forliti and Brian Bakst of the AP write: “Brodkorb has pursued a mediated settlement with the state over his termination, but those efforts have failed. In a news conference outside the EEOC office, he said he was disappointed that it was necessary to pursue a lawsuit. ‘I know the wheels of state government move slowly, but my attorneys and myself have made every attempt to work in a productive way with the Senate to mediate this throughout,’ he said. Brodkorb and his attorneys didn’t provide a copy of their EEOC filing, and a clerk in the office wouldn’t confirm the filing. … Brodkorb attorney Gregory Walsh said Wednesday that he planned a defamation lawsuit against Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman because of those comments. ‘Extortion is a crime,’ Walsh said. ‘For Mr. Ludeman to say Mr. Brodkorb is committing a crime as a state employee that has a legitimate grievance against the state and the Senate, that’s pretty outlandish.’ Ludeman declined to comment and wouldn’t say if he will hire a personal attorney.” Are Mr. Brodkorb’s representatives being paid on contingency?

The Icelandic view of The Brodkorb Affair comes from Iris Erlingsdottir, put up at The Huffington Post. “This must be such an interesting time for mental health professionals. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote last year that ‘someone ought to study the Republican Party. I am not referring to yet another political scientist but to a mental health professional … The GOP needs an intervention.’ … Cohen suggests that the GOP consult ‘preferably a specialist in the power of fixations, obsessions and the like.’ However, I think a broader expertise might be in order, considering the patient’s symptoms: being ‘angry or argumentative … falsely believe that others are trying to harm you or your loved ones … strongly hold beliefs that are not based in reality (delusions),’ finding it ‘difficult to think logically, behave normally.’ Really. In Minnesota, former Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb is suing the state’s Republican-controlled Senate for gender discrimination. Brodkorb, former deputy chairman of the Minnesota GOP, is unhappy that while the Republican leadership fired him for getting it on with the very married leader of the Family-Values Party, former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, ‘similarly situated female legislative employees, from both (what?!) political parties, were not terminated from their employment positions despite intimate relationships with male legislators.’ ” And you know what libertines those Icelanders are …  

The mysterious underground booms in Clintonville, Wis., are continuing. The AP story says: “The strange disturbance sounds like distant thunder, fireworks or someone slamming a heavy door. At first, many people were amused or merely curious. But after three restless nights, aggravation is mounting. And some folks are considering leaving town until investigators determine the source of the racket. ‘My husband thought it was cool, but I don’t think so. This is not a joke,’ said Jolene Van Beek, who awoke early Sunday to a loud boom that shook her house. ‘I don’t know what it is, but I just want it to stop.’ … Steve Dutch, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said the ground beneath them is solid, and that there are no known earthquake fault lines in the area. Dutch said he heard some people worrying that a sinkhole might open up and swallow homes. That can happen in areas where the ground is rich with limestone and other low-density rocks that can be dissolved by water, he said. But the rock below Clintonville is mainly solid granite that’s largely impermeable. However, he speculated that water and granite could hold the key to the mystery. Granite has small cracks that water can fill, but if the underground water table falls especially low, water can seep out, leaving gaps that cause the rocks to settle and generate loud noises. ‘Maybe the very dry winter caused more water to be removed from the water table, either through pumping or natural flow,’ he said.” Me, I’m sticking with the giant granite-boring alien worm theory.

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The clean-up at Westminster Court apartments in St. Paul does not sound at all pleasant. Frederick Melo in the PiPress reports: “A pest-control firm went through the Westminster Court apartments last week, spraying for bugs and rodents. Tenants say it’s a hopeful sign that conditions at the dilapidated St. Paul buildings will gradually improve. What remains unclear to them is where the funding for that and other cleanup is coming from. The 60-unit complex is in the midst of foreclosure proceedings initiated by Wells Fargo, leading many tenants and housing advocates to blame the mortgage giant for any delays in property repairs and cleanup. Bill Endresen, president of Impac Mortgage Holdings Inc. of Irvine, Calif., said this week that that’s not the case. His company is the lender and servicer on the mortgage loans, and he’s in close contact with the court-appointed receiver now overseeing the properties. ‘We are the master servicer,’ Endresen said. ‘Wells Fargo is not involved.’ Some housing advocates remain incredulous, and the complicated relationship between the companies has tenants seeing double. Tired of bedbugs, rodents, faulty plumbing, broken ovens and leaking ceilings, residents at 1205 and 1225 Westminster St. protested this month outside the downtown St. Paul Wells Fargo branch. They were demanding the mortgage giant release more money for property upkeep.”

This is not a typo … $360 million in kited checks. John Welbes of the PiPress, covering the Pinehurst Bank case, reports: “Years before George Wintz’s alleged check-kiting scheme surfaced at Pinehurst Bank in St. Paul, one of his businesses was the subject of a federal fraud case with similar circumstances. At Wintz’s trial Wednesday … in Minneapolis, prosecutors read part of a transcript from a 1999 federal check-kiting case against OK Freightways, which was owned by Wintz. OK Freightways was accused of defrauding Farmers and Merchant State Bank of New Ulm with a check kiting scheme. An FBI agent who worked on the OK Freightways case testified Wednesday that after reviewing Wintz-related accounts at three banks, she determined that 80 percent of the total deposits at the banks — or $360 milllion — had come from kited checks. Wintz eventually agreed to a plea deal in that case, and admitted to artificially inflating the account balance of OK Freightways. He was never personally charged, but he did enter a guilty plea on behalf of the corporation. The penalty was a fine.” And after that, you’re free to go, Mr. Wintz. Have a nice day.

Paul Demko at Politics in Minnesota has a good piece laying out the new cast of characters running for metro area legislative seats. A sample: “Senate District 49: Democrats are energized by the prospect of taking over a seat held by retiring Sen. Geoff Michel. Three months ago it looked like Michel would be a lock for retaining his seat. He’s a prodigious fundraiser and won re-election by at least 13 percentage points in each of the last three election cycles. But that was before Michel got entangled in the scandal involving former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and her executive assistant, Michael Brodkorb. Facing an ethics complaint over his handling of the matter, Michel announced this month that he would not seek re-election. Three credible challengers — Melisa Lopez Franzen, Cynthia Bemis Abrams and Ann Swenson — are seeking the DFL endorsement. Franzen announced her candidacy well before Michel dropped his re-election plans and got a jump on her DFL counterparts in wooing delegates. She is an attorney for the Target Corp. making her first foray into electoral politics. Swenson has served on the Edina City Council since 2005. Before that, she spent 10 years on the city’s planning commission. … Lew Coffey, co-chairman of the GOP in the district, said they will likely delay endorsements four to six weeks. That’s because the retirements of Michel and Rep. Pat Mazorol caught Republicans off guard, and no official challengers have emerged for the open seats. … The district will almost certainly be a key battleground in 2012.”

Do we have an attorney willing to do pro bono work for a frustrated high school kid who needs a prom date? Paul Walsh of the Strib says: “An Oakdale high school senior is being prevented from bringing his chosen date — a porn actress — to prom. Mike Stone tweeted one member after another in that profession, seeking someone willing to go to the Tartan High School prom at Landmark Center in St. Paul. Megan Piper said on her Twitter account that she’d love to accompany the 18-year-old to his rite of passage May 12 as long as Stone paid for her transportation from California. Patty Phillips, superintendent of District 622, said Wednesday in a written statement that Piper would be unwelcome. ‘This prom date will not be allowed to attend the Tartan prom as her attendance would be prohibited under Tartan’s standard prom procedures and would be inconsistent with two school district policies,’ one covering visitors and the other addressing school-sponsored student activities. The visitor policy reads, in part, that access is allowed unless ‘the visit is not in the best interest of students, employees or the school district.’ The activities policy prohibits, among other things, any act that ‘substantially disrupts the orderly operation of school or school activities.’ ” Define “disrupt.”

Points for sheer, naked persistence … The Strib editorializes on the lofty values of “civic-minded fortitude,” “strategic investments” and “giving new life” as it admonishes the city council to stop listening to anti-stadium killjoys. Says the paper: “Minneapolis City Council members have a rare opportunity to make history by having the civic-minded fortitude to back a nearly $1 billion public-private investment that can pay dividends for the city and state for decades to come. … City Council members concerned about political fallout need to cut through the often inaccurate antistadium rhetoric and educate their constituents. The city’s contribution to the stadium is a no-new-taxes approach that actually would result in property tax relief. … The City Council can make a strategic investment in the 65,000-square-foot stadium — much like the Hennepin County Board did with Target Field and the Warehouse District — and give new life to the east end of a downtown that serves as the region’s most important economic engine. Plans call for a large public plaza, a block for tailgating and other amenities — all closely tied to the expanding light-rail system. With thoughtful urban planning and additional private investment, the new facility can do for Minneapolis what Lucas Oil Stadium has done for Indianapolis. … City Council members should not be asked to defend the economics of professional sports. The unfortunate reality is that public subsidies are almost always the price of admission for cities that want to attract or retain major-league teams.” Is it me or is this getting embarrassing?