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The Michael Brodkorb story: a primer and a pundits’ field day

Chris Cook follow-up; a rainy-day fund raid; “Fighting Sioux” issue on ballot; sides can’t agree whom to blame for stadium bill’s problems; and more.

On the Michael Brodkorb vs. The World story, Catharine Richert of MPR offers a primer on the whos and whats. Among the germane questions:

“So, is it illegal to have an affair with your boss?   Generally speaking, if the relationship is consensual, it’s legal. All that changes, however, if the relationship is made a condition of work, said attorney Stephen Cooper.So far, Brodkorb’s legal team has not indicated their client’s relationship with Koch was non-consensual.”

And … “But doesn’t Brodkorb’s ‘at-will’ status complicate his case? Not if his lawyers can prove other staffers in similar situations were treated differently. If they do, Brodkorb’s ‘at-will’ status becomes irrelevant. ‘At-will simply means that an employer can terminate an employee for any reason, no reason, but not an illegal reason,’ said [attorney Bill] O’Brien. ‘So in cases like this, motive is terribly important. What was the rationale for his termination and what is the legitimate business reason that the employer is going to articulate?’ Making the case that Brodkorb was let go because he was an at-will employee whose services were no longer needed after Koch stepped down may be complicated by how quickly Brodkorb was fired, [attorney Stephen] Cooper said. ‘They have one big problem with that argument,’ he said of the Senate’s take on the situation. ‘They fired him before they selected a new leader. So, if they had waited — had the patience to wait a few weeks — and had a new leader come in and then the new leader had fired him, that would be a very persuasive argument.’ ” Where’s Tony Sutton or someone to just write a check and make this go away?

Only if somehow Tim Pawlenty were involved could a story be more perfectly placed on a tee for Nick Coleman than this Brodkorb business. Says Nick: “Michael Brodkorb — the unlikely Lothario of that hotbed of love and loins known as the Minnesota State Capitol — is threatening to blow the socks off the GOP Senate majority caucus with a lawsuit challenging his firing for fornicating with a superior. Brodkorb was fired by the Mullahs of the GOP in December after a subaltern reported him for boffing the boss, GOP Sen. Majority Leader Amy Koch, who also was forced to resign her position.  A cynic might say this is the kind of thing the late Rush Limbaugh warned us about if Republicans let women take leadership roles. The GOP contention was that Koch had behaved inappropriately by having an affair with a subordinate who was never named … Gasping at the thought that upright Republicans were getting horizontal under the Capitol dome, the GOP bluenoses acted as if the ‘staffer’ had been some kind of apple-cheeked Lutheran intern from Gustavus who was overwhelmed by the powerful Koch. That, of course, was pure bull: Brodkorb is/was the Rasputin of Minnesota Republicans … The ironic part here — one the GOP forgot while they were whacking him hard enough to make him mad but not hard enough to never have to worry about him again — is that they made this monster. … You could argue — I do – that Brodkorb had more power and influence than his alleged boss … And you can argue that if any “inappropriate” conduct took place, it was Koch who was the victim. What you really can’t argue is that any of this is public business, or that we needed to know. That part is the disaster that the GOP brought upon itself.” I have this image of an Irish wolfhound attacking a side of fresh meat … mostly loin cuts.

Vikings player Chris Cook walked on all counts of domestic assault. Dave Hanners’ PiPress story says: “A Hennepin County district court jury on Thursday acquitted Cook, 25, in connection with an incident at his Eden Prairie townhome last autumn in which he fought with his then-girlfriend and, according to prosecutors, choked her. A member of the jury of seven men and five women said after the verdict that once jurors stripped away the raw emotions of the case and the alternating yes-he-did, no-he-didn’t statements made by the woman, there wasn’t enough physical evidence to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. ‘We just tried to keep in mind that everybody’s human,’ said the juror, Richard Green. ‘There just wasn’t enough on the one side, so we had to go the other way.’ After jurors had filed out of the courtroom, Cook summed up his feelings with one word: ‘Wow.’ “

Hey, pal, how about a little role model action, hmm? Nick Ferraro of the PiPress reports: “South St. Paul doled out 32 administrative citations last year to residents accused of things like having a junk-filled yard or long weeds. One of those tickets was sent to the home of Dan Niederkorn, a city council member since 2005. Niederkorn was cited in December for not completing a driveway as required by a conditional use permit and variance issued to him in 2003 for a second garage. On Thursday, March 15, Niederkorn paid the $200 fine. He now has 30 days to complete the work or face the possibility of another ticket. Since 2003, Niederkorn has been given five extensions to finish the work initially scheduled to be completed by Nov. 1, 2004. The city council, minus Niederkorn voting, approved the most recent extension in August 2010, giving him until October 2011 to pave the driveway up to his garage. At the time the extension was granted and again this week, Niederkorn, who owns a remodeling contracting business, cited the slow economy as his reason for not getting the work done.”

Well, the GOP House has voted to dip into the state’s rainy day fund to re-pay school districts. Jim Ragsdale at the Strib writes: “ ‘When you have cash on hand, you pay your debts,’ said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, sponsor of the measure, which would take $430 million out of the state budget reserve and return it to schools. It passed on a 74-59 vote with largely Republican support. Democrats called the strategy reckless financing that could force the state to take out short-term loans to meet its cash obligations. They offered amendments to close corporate tax loopholes and provide a regular source of revenue to pay down the school debt. The amendments were not voted on directly when Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, ruled them to be not ‘germane’ to the subject matter of Garofalo’s bill.” Well, if you say so.

Wisconsin has its recall elections. We’re going to have gay marriage and maybe Voter ID. But North Dakota could be going to the polls to decide if the name The Fighting Sioux stays or goes for good. Dale Wetzel of the AP writes: “North Dakota’s Supreme Court grilled the state Board of Higher Education’s lawyer Thursday about the board’s tardiness in challenging a law that requires the University of North Dakota’s sports teams to carry the Fighting Sioux nickname. State lawmakers first approved the pro-nickname law in March 2011. Yet it wasn’t until last month, after the law was repealed and then revived in a referendum campaign, that the higher education board sued to block the law … . Secretary of State Al Jaeger scheduled a June 12 referendum on the law after nickname backers turned in more than 16,000 petition signatures demanding a ballot.”

Vikings stadium sponsor GOP Sen. Julie Rosen is blaming the DFL for the mess that was Wednesday’s introduction of the funding bill. Says Mike Kaszuba in the Strib: “Rosen, R-Fairmont, the lead Senate stadium author, said a Senate panel Wednesday could not pass the proposal because DFL senators changed their votes at the last minute. In a new twist on the politics surrounding the stadium project, Rosen said it was DFLers on the panel who had suddenly switched their votes. ‘People changed their votes. [It] came down from leadership – wasn’t on our side,’ she said. Did DFL senators whom she thought would vote for the stadium change their votes? Yes, said Rosen. ‘So, that’s that,’ she added. But Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk disputed what happened. Bakk said he was willing to pledge four DFL votes on the 14-member Senate Local Government and Elections Committee for the proposal. Republicans, who hold eight seats on the panel, were only willing to put up three votes, he said.” Potato. Potahto. Why don’t we just call the whole thing off?

The Strib editorializes in favor of another big construction project, this one without luxury seats and a public plaza in their back yard: “Republican legislators in St. Paul purport to be pro-business. In the case of the proposed Southwest Corridor light-rail transit line, they should respond like business executives and be non-ideological, data-driven and consumer-responsive. Then, like any savvy executive, they should seize this transit opportunity while it’s still available. The 15-mile line would connect the burgeoning business districts in the southwest suburbs with downtown Minneapolis. From there, passengers could proceed on the same train to the University of Minnesota or to downtown St. Paul. Or they could transfer to the Hiawatha Line to get to the airport and beyond. Out of more than 100 transit projects contending for scarce federal funding, Southwest was one of only 10 chosen by the Federal Transit Administration for preliminary engineering. If the $1.25 billion project proceeds, the state would realize a nine-to-one return on investment, since it would only pay 10 percent of the cost. … Republican legislators should rethink their opposition. Failure to do so may cost the state an invaluable opportunity to increase its competitiveness with other dynamic economic regions. And even if the project could somehow remain one of 10 the FTA favors, the Met Council estimates that even a one-year delay could add inflationary costs of $40 million.”

I swear to God I looked everywhere for a local conservative saying something … anything … about the Brodkorb story and, oddly, they all seem to be MIA. (A couple are still having deep thoughts about Solyndra though.) So, here’s this from “Spot” at the liberal Cucking Stool: “As of this morning, though, it looks more likely that Cal [Ludeman] & Co. will be on the business end of a lawsuit by Michael Brodkorb. … Among Cal’s problems (and there are more) is the fact that the Senate has already been driven into penury by the Republican caucus. Remember, no less an authority than Thomas A. Bottern, Esq., counsel to the Rules Committee and Cal’s consigliere, has opined that the the defense and settlement of Brodkorb’s claim is up to Cal Ludeman, Secretary of the Senate. … That is Bottern’s opinion, notwithstanding the fact that it was the Republican caucus who hired Brodkorb to be Amy Koch’s faithful [chortle] retainer, and it was the caucus and Cal that decided to summarily fire him. (But the money comes out of the Senate.) But in all the general hilarity over the situation — and who doesn’t enjoy a good belly laugh? — one thing seems to be overlooked. Let’s start with a hypothetical. Say you have an employee who screws something up so monumentally, so royally, so titanically — and maybe so carelessly or intentionally — that it winds up costing you a lot of money. Say that this person is your HR director. Let’s also say that the matter that got screwed up was the dismissal of another employee. Can you sue your employee for his utter malfeasance? Why, of course you can. You see where this is going, don’t you? Ludeman has a huge conflict of interest here. He’s playing with house (well, actually the Senate’s and by extension the taxpayers’) money to hire a lawyer to protect the Senate Republican caucus and himself.