With the lifting of a gag order in his wrongful-termination case against the Minnesota Senate, Michael Brodkorb has demonstrated that Brodkorb un-gagged is Brodkorb unplugged.
In an interview with MinnPost on Sunday, the former communications director for the Republican caucus, dismissed for his personal relationship with former Majority Leader Amy Koch, recounted in detail the events that led to his dismissal and disparaged senators who were once his friends and employers.
He made his case that Senate leaders bungled and continue to mismanage the situation, costing the taxpayers plenty in legal fees to defend the civil lawsuit.
Brodkorb said that he was inches away from a settlement this summer when he met with two key lawmakers, Dave Senjem and Julianne Ortmann. “Both Senator Senjem and Senator Ortman said they wanted this resolved,” he said.
But the settlement talks, ordered by a federal magistrate, fell apart in September. That development, Brodkorb said, “absolutely calls into question who is in control at the Minnesota Senate.”
Federal Magistrate Arthur Boylan lifted the gag order in the case Friday and Brodkorb began giving interviews over the weekend to local news organizations, making his case in public first the first time. The lawsuit is now in the motion phase before Boylan.
In his MinnPost interview, Brodkorb described events that led up to his dismissal in December and charged that a triumvirate of GOP senators — Geoff Michel, Chris Gerlach and David Hann – were involved in a power grab.
After confiding in September of last year to former Senate Chief of Staff Cullen Sheehan about his relationship with Koch, Brodkorb said, the three senators then used that information to oust Koch and take control of the Senate.
“The objective was to organize, plan and plot an absolute palace coup,” he said. “Take out Senator Koch and anyone close to her, which was me.”
Michel, Gerlach and Hann declined to respond. Koch, citing the lawsuit, said she couldn’t comment directly. But when asked if being the first female majority leader affected her tenure, she said: “Pro and con, on both sides of the aisle.”
Koch also wouldn’t comment on whether she developed GOP Senate adversaries because of legislative issues. But Senate Republicans were divided on her and Brodkorb’s work on the Vikings stadium and her support of expanding “racino” gambling.
Brodkorb also riled some of his colleagues during the last months of his job by acting more like a Senate leader than a Senate aide. Brodkorb’s response Sunday to that charge was typical: Go on the offensive. “My place was to be an advocate for and follow through on the directions and instructions of all the members of the leadership and all the members of the caucus,” he said in the MinnPost interview. “I have no problem comparing the work product of the Minnesota Senate from when I was there to what’s there right now.”
Like any good political strategist, when the dispute first surfaced Brodkorb anticipated his opponents’ next move and had an answer to those who wanted him fired. “There is a clear policy and procedure on how this situation should be handled. Minnesota Senate policy 2.35,” he recites. “I was aware of this policy. It specifically says the Senate does not require termination to avoid the manager subordinate relationship.”
Brodkorb had the policy ready to email. He also says he has supporting documents and other files.
And, he says, he has the ultimate weapon and is prepared to use it to win his case: The names of other legislators who were involved in similar personal relationships with subordinates.
Further, Brodkorb offered no hope to those who want this story to go away, who want to plug the flow of tax dollars – already at $100,000 – going to the legal defense of the Senate.
And now instead of the two sides talking to each other, at least one is talking to the media. Still, even Brodkorb sounded tired: “This is going to go on for some time.”