Audrey Britton, a DFL candidate for the Minnesota House, today sent an open letter to the members of the Minnesota Senate Rules Committee requesting an outside investigation of how the Senate ultimately will deal with Michael Brodkorb, the communications director for the Republican caucus fired last year for his personal relationship with then Majority Leader Amy Koch.
The letter would carry little weight except that it echoes a more forceful demand from former Gov. Arne Carlson, who sees a hint of Watergate cover-up in the Senate’s handling of the situation, on the part of both Democrats and Republicans.
In a preview of a speech on the subject that Carlson gave Tuesday to the Minnesota Bankers Association, he said that the Senate should ask the Legislative Auditor to review the circumstances and the costs surrounding Brodkorb’s dismissal. On the eve of a meeting of the Rules Committee to approve a $46,000 bill for legal fees and a second bill close to that amount, Carlson said the Senate should use the Minnesota Attorney General to defend itself as Brodkorb prepares to sue for wrongful termination.
The core of Brodkorb’s claim, that other elected officials had personal relationships with subordinate staff members without similar consequences, is proof that the Senate is too conflicted to do its own investigation, Carlson said.
“If what Brodkorb’s attorneys say is true — that there are 10 to 15 legislators in similar relationships — this likely involves members of both parties,” he said. “The Senate situation is becoming very clear they would prefer to protect themselves than to reveal other participants.”
Carlson said the Senate is hoping to keep the issue out of the public eye until after the election. “My guess is that the Senate is procrastinating, hoping the public doesn’t care and doesn’t find out,” he said. “I would contend that the taxpayer cares very deeply.”
Britton, in the second of two letters she’s written to the Senate, cites the use of a $330-an-hour private attorney. “Hiring outside resources is not acceptable especially considering the $2.7 million Senate budget shortfall,” she wrote.
The Rules Committee, which oversees the Senate’s internal management, must approve not only the expenses for the first round of legal fees, it must appropriate more money for a second bill from the Larkin Hoffman law firm, reported to be another $35,000. Insiders to the process say they fear legal bills could hit the low six figures before the Broadkorb case is finalized, a figure that does not include a possible monetary settlement.
The expense alone gives standing to his suggestions, Carlson said.
“This is the public’s money. So the sooner we do it the less it will cost,” he said. And, alluding again to the whisper of a cover-up, he added, “The one thing we’ve learned from all scandals — the participants don’t understand an exit strategy.”