Senate panel will review legal cost of Brodkorb case

Attorney Greg Walsh and Michael Brodkorb

The public may soon get a closer look at the legal bill they’re footing to defend the state Senate in Michael Brodkorb’s wrongful termination case.

The DFL minority leader has demanded that the Senate Rules Committee review the case, and the Republican majority leader is inclined to agree.  

DFL Sen. Tom Bakk said he’s reluctant to co-sign a check with Majority Leader Dave Senjem for $46,000 in legal fees unless the Rules Committee reviews the bill and considers the cost of further legal action.

Senjem indicated he will call a meeting of the committee soon because the committee appropriated only $50,000 for legal expenses. “Certainly the Rules Committee can meet and talk about that,” Senjem said in an interview late Thursday.

The Senate received a bill from attorney Dayle Nolan for $46,000 for work her work on the case through March 1. Nolan bills the Senate at a rate of $330 an hour.   

She was retained after the Senate dismissed Brodkorb, communications director for the Senate Republican caucus, last December for having an inappropriate personal relationship with then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. Brodkorb is waiting for approval from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to bring a legal claim against the Senate for gender discrimination. To prove that claim, he said he’s prepared to identify legislative colleagues who had their own personal relationships with staff members and were treated differently.

A five-figure legal bill and no end in sight for billable hours compound the bad publicity – especially for Senate Republicans – surrounding the case. Bakk and other senators are starting to chafe at the public perception of the case. “All along I have said there needs to be a transparent process, that this going to take a couple years to resolve, and the public needs to know all that is transpiring,” he said.

 The 11-member Rules Committee, chaired by Senjem, offers the Senate a larger forum to discuss alternatives to going to court.

“There may be a point, in an awful case like this, the parties being sued may decide they want to settle,” Bakk said.  “If the Rules Committee takes a look, we have more options going forward, if more people are being engaged in the process.”

Senjem sees the benefit of a meeting of the Rules Committee not only to discuss future legal expenses but also to allay the public relations concerns.

“The institutional value of going through the bill and noting that the lawyer may have talked to Senate counsel or Senator Bakk or myself, that value is in the eye of the beholder,” he said.  “But I do think the public is certainly interested in the amount and the general purpose of the payment.” 

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by mark wallek on 06/01/2012 - 10:29 am.

    Not one dime

    The taxpayers should not pay one dime. This is a party issue, and the GOPers should absorb all the cost. Oh wait, they like to pass the buck even more than the dems. Let these pols rot, as they were useless in the first place and have only been trying to enrich themselves at our expense anyway.

  2. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 06/01/2012 - 10:57 am.

    The GOP should be footing the entire legal defense bill. Oh, wait, they can’t even pay their rent they’re so broke.

    That does not mean we taxpayers should foot the bill for this malfeasance.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/01/2012 - 11:09 am.

    I watched the sub-rosa way the enabling legislation of the payment of the fees up to $50K was wiggled through in the closing minutes of the session by Senjem, and thought, “This is not the last of it”.

    And it’s not.

    $48 K in billings at $330/hour is about 2 weeks of work on the case. It is clear that the great majority of work is yet to be done. Can you picture hundreds of thousands of dollars in defense fees? I can.

    And this pickled mess was created at the hands of lawyers like Geoff Michel and other GOP legal geniuses. Was this ever known to state EEO officials? Was any employment/firing expert consulted or retained by the GOP?

    What a fine record for the GOP.

    –Mysterious expenditures for marijuana research gone up in smoke by GOP leaders.

    –Contracts for recount services made by the GOP through a shell company with the GOP now refusing to pay.

    –Now, Minnesota taxpayers saddled with the costs related to the alleged improper firing of a GOP shill by GOP employers.

  4. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/01/2012 - 11:30 am.

    $330 an hour ?? Really ??

    I’m just spitballing here, but could they perhaps have shopped around a little ??

    I don’t want to sound cheap, cuz I’m sure $330 an hour is an absolutely wonderful bargain !! It makes me want to rush out and buy some of those billable hours before the rate goes up !! Even if I don’t need ’em.

    But one wonders if this attorney has any other clients who willingly agree to $330 an hour for an unknown number of hours, leading to no action other than offering an opinion ?? Where can one find such clients?

  5. Submitted by chuck holtman on 06/01/2012 - 02:50 pm.

    This is an internecine conflict

    Between the majority caucus and its political operative. Its origins had nothing to do with acts of legislating or governance. In these circumstances, it is fair to argue that big piles of attorney fees and generous, closed-door settlements should not fall to the taxpayers. Indeed, one would think that the offending caucus would declare that, regardless of the law, it would seek these funds not from the taxpayers but from its own best-heeled donors. (Yes, that was a joke.) Does the law require the public to bear these costs? If so, can the law be changed and should it not be? I have seen zero reporting to inform us on this question, from Minnpost or anyone else. Ms. Brucato?

  6. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/01/2012 - 11:31 pm.

    Just out of curiosity

    Lawyers were hired “in case” of a lawsuit. What if they had waited until (or if) a lawsuit was filed? If no suit is filed then the money is for nothing. I was actually hoping that Mr. B would expose all the cheaters since in reality no one cares ever since the former President did it in the White House. Maybe a few more folks would have decided not to run in 2012, but why would that be a bad thing? In fact, the Senate should sue Mr. B and make him prove that he has evidence of other affairs or collect money from him for false public accusations.

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