A settlement in the Michael Brodkorb wrongful termination case against the Minnesota Senate could be on the fast track.
U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan on Thursday ordered Brodkorb and the state into confidential settlement talks. The talks will be conducted by Boylan and begin Sept. 24.
The talks will center on Brodkorb’s claim that he was illegally fired from his position as Senate communications director after his boss, former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, resigned her post after admitting she had a personal relationship with a subordinate staff member. Brodkorb and Koch later acknowledge they had a relationship.
Brodkorb maintains in his suit that he was treated differently than other staff members who had been similarly involved with their supervisors. The Senate has maintained that Brodkorb was an at-will employee who could be fired without cause.
Brodkorb is also suing the Senate and Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman for defamation of character for a statement to the media that accused Brodkorb of trying to “extort” the Senate. A third claim of invasion of privacy has been dropped.
The presence of Boylan in the settlement talks indicates an agreement is near, according to an attorney who is close to the case, but not representing either side. A federal magistrate brings more weight to a settlement discussion than a third party mediator, he said. “It’s an indicator that the judge believes the case is a waste of judicial resources and wants the matter to come to a quick close,” said the attorney.
The lawyer said the order to enter into settlement talks comes with two key stipulations. The first is that Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem and Ludeman directly take part in the discussion. The second stipulation is that if a settlement is reached, Senjem would be required to make a good faith effort to get the cost of the settlement approved by the Senate Rules Committee.
Boylan has imposed a gag order, preventing parties involved from publicly discussing the case. The amount of a settlement is matter of speculation, but the expectation is that a settlement would cost less than legal fees in defending the suit, already more than $100,000.