MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Republican operative fired by the state Senate after an affair with the majority leader said Sunday he believes he and she were victims of a power grab by other Republican senators.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Michael Brodkorb made his most extensive comments to date about the events that led to his firing last December and to Amy Koch's resignation as majority leader. Brodkorb is pursuing a civil lawsuit against the Senate claiming discrimination and defamation; he said the judge in the case on Friday lifted a gag order.
"What was being done, the only logical conclusion based on the evidence and what I've seen here, is a clear attempt for an absolute palace coup," Brodkorb said. "An attempt to wipe out Sen. Koch and those closely aligned with her at the Minnesota Senate. They used this situation to do it."
Brodkorb said he thinks the lawsuit could be settled but believes some senators don't want it resolved until after the upcoming election.
Brodkorb, who made $90,000 a year as chief spokesman for Minnesota Senate Republicans, was fired a day after Koch resigned her leadership post last December. It was later revealed that Cullen Sheehan, then chief of staff for the Senate GOP, separately confronted Brodkorb and Koch about the affair in September.
Brodkorb said Sunday that by the time Sheehan confronted him, he had already confessed the affair to his family. He declined on Sunday to reveal further details of his relationship with Koch.
For several months, Brodkorb said, he and Sheehan frequently discussed the situation from a personal and professional perspective. Brodkorb said Sheehan led him to believe he could continue to work for the state, either another job in the Senate or in some other capacity.
"I felt the situation was being managed, resolved," Brodkorb said. He said Sheehan assured him repeatedly the information was private and not being shared with other senators. He later learned that Sheehan had almost immediately notified the deputy majority leader, Sen. Geoff Michel, of what had happened.
Sheehan, contacted by email Sunday, said he could not comment because of Brodkorb's lawsuit. Michel also said he could not comment.
Sheehan left the Senate GOP last November. A few weeks later in mid-December, a group of senators first confronted Koch about the affair. She resigned as majority leader on a Thursday, and the next day several of those same senators announced in a news conference that she decided to leave her leadership post. Later that same day, the Senate GOP revealed Brodkorb no longer worked for them.
Brodkorb said the senators who confronted Koch lured her to the meeting under false pretenses, telling her it would be a meeting about the push for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. Koch, reached Sunday, confirmed that version of events but declined to comment further. She is not running for reelection to her Buffalo-area Senate seat.
Brodkorb said he believed Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, had designs on the majority leader job.
Reached Sunday, Hann declined comment. "I'm not going to respond to anything he has to say," he said. Hann did seek the majority leader job after Koch stepped down but was defeated by Sen. Dave Senjem of Rochester.
In his lawsuit, Brodkorb contends he was treated differently as a man who had an affair with a female superior in contrast to numerous female legislative employees he claims never lost jobs despite affairs with male legislators. He said Sunday that he drew up a list of those affairs and that it's in the hands of his attorneys to use at their discretion.
Senate officials said the termination was proper because Brodkorb was an "at-will" employee. Dayle Nolan, the private attorney hired by the Senate, did not return a phone call Sunday night.
Brodkorb said he's still a Republican and that he's not seeking to hurt the party politically.
"I'm sorry for how my behavior has impacted my family and the relationships in my life," Brodkorb said. "My behavior was not to the standards I set for myself."
Brodkorb said he's done some private public affairs consulting in recent months but would not reveal for whom. He's finishing his long-delayed undergraduate degree in political science at the University of Minnesota.
"This situation hasn't changed my passion and interest in politics," Brodkorb said. But, he added: "That road back is going to be difficult."
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