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Brodkorb tape recordings could add pressure for settlement

MinnPost file photo by Brian Halliday
Attorneys for Michael Brodkorb, right, have acknowledged the existing of three recordings.

The audiotapes that Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb made after he was fired in December 2011 are part of an escalating pre-trial drama in his wrongful-termination lawsuit.

While they may have little evidentiary value, they can be a useful public relations tool to break loose a settlement agreement, according to an employment lawyer with no connection to the case.

“In my opinion, the highest and best use of these tapes is to rattle cages and get publicity,” said Daniel Kelly, an employment attorney with the Felhaber law firm in Minneapolis.

Brodkorb made the recordings after he was fired as communications director for the Republican Senate caucus following the revelation of his affair with then-Majority Leader Amy Koch.

Kelly, whose firm generally represents defendants — the Senate position in the Brodkorb case — said that Brodkorb’s recordings of conversations with senators and staff must meet a certain threshold before they can admitted as evidence.

“Tapes of these kind oftentimes constitute hearsay and, therefore, may not be admissible in court,” he said. 

But that doesn’t mean the tapes can’t be useful, depending on exactly what they contain.

Brodkorb’s attorneys have acknowledged the existing of three recordings: a conversation with Senate Chief of Staff Kevin Matzek and former Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman; one with Republican Sens. David Senjem and Julianne Ortman; and one with Sen. Michelle Fischbach, who was president of the Senate when the Republicans were in control.

The Fischbach recording could be the most damaging. According to a source who has heard the recording, Fischbach acknowledged that several state senators had been involved with staff members who were not terminated as a consequence of their relationships.

“The basis of the Brodkorb case is that different people were treated differently,” said Kelly.  “The person who said that [Fischbach] would be subpoenaed, put under oath and would be asked, ‘Are you aware of other situations where people engaged in similar behavior and were treated differently?’ ”

Then there’s the public relations value. After news reports on the Fischbach audiotape, there were at least two published calls for a settlement of the case, including an editorial in the New Ulm Journal.

The editorial noted Senate approval of another  $500,000 to cover future legal expenses, a sum added to the $200,000 already paid to the Larkin Hoffman law firm. 

But Brodkorb isn’t necessarily on public-relations high ground, according to attorney Kelly.

Although secret recordings of conversations are legal in Minnesota as long as one party is aware of the recording, they aren’t crowd-pleasers. “Surreptitious tape-recording of conversations is not popular,” Kelly said. “It looks sneaky, and juries don’t like sneaky people.”

But a jury may never be seated in the Brodkorb case. “Most cases, in excess of 90 percent of cases, will settle,” Kelly said.

Still, DFL and Republican Senate leaders have stated publicly that they do not intend to settle the case. Senate attorneys recently filed a 35-page affidavit asking Brodkorb for a wide range of personal information, including medical records and the status of his relationship with Koch.

So, the Brodkorb case may continue to make waves in Minnesota politics, with  the added threat of exposure of other legislators and staffers who engaged in similar office romances.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/01/2013 - 11:29 am.

    Last week there was an article in Minnpost about John Gilmore’s unhappiness with the fact that there was not more pressure to hear the Brodkorb tapes, apparently in the service of forcing a settlemet for his buddy Brodkorb. Today we have Ms. Brucato’s riff on how the tapes are supposed to force a settlement.

    What exactly is going on here? Is this a Brodkorb-pushed initiative? Is he getting worried now?

    For blackmail to work, the people you are blackmailing have to feel threatened by what you want to disclose AND have the ability to give you what you want.

    Well, there are a few Republicans who may feel threatened (or perhaps they only feel discomfited by having their cravenness exposed–once again!), but they are not the ones who are able to give Brodkorb what he wants.

    I would guess the breakdown of ideas related to the tapes is: # 1 what is this all about?, #
    2 who cares? #3 go ahead, it embarrasses people I don’t know # 4 go ahead, it embarrasses people I don’t like, and probably the last, smallest category, # 989 don’t, it’ll show that I say stupid things when a supposed friend calls up and wants me to commiserate with them.

    All, in all though, the loser in all of the scenarios is Brodkorb’s reputation.

  2. Submitted by Erik Hare on 07/01/2013 - 01:56 pm.

    Minnesota Republicans Exposed!

    I think I like Brodkorb’s new gig a lot better than his old one. As a flak for the DFL he’s doing a bang-up job.

    All joking aside, the real problem here is that the people who are in a position to make a decision now have an incentive to let this play out at least a little while longer. Granted, it will get expensive and eventually make the DFL look bad for not dispatching it. I don’t think we are anywhere near there yet.

    Then again, some kind of cross-party agreement that we should never, ever do this kind of crap again would be in EVERYONE’s interest – and by everyone I mean Minnesota, DFL and Republican alike. Letting Brodkorb walk away with a big settlement may not feel good, but if it puts an end to his tactics once and for all it will be worth it.

  3. Submitted by Sally Sorensen on 07/01/2013 - 03:18 pm.

    Rick rolling headline

    The headline seems designed to cement low information twitter notion that Brodkorb’s got something to bargain with. Body of article suggests otherwise. Fascinating.

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 07/01/2013 - 10:29 pm.

      Rick who?

      People who do not inform other people that they are being recorded do poorly with juries. Nothing fascinating about fornicating in the Capitol. Read a romance novel instead. LOL

  4. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/01/2013 - 04:51 pm.

    No matter how you look at it

    this mess is going to have price tag of $1,000,000 of your tax dollars for he said, she said, he said trial. They need to focus on the states business, oh wait, they can’t they are Republicans. Their business is their business and they are the ones who need to pay for it.

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