Politics Gets Nasty in Minnesota

     ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) – A legislative staffer who had an affair with former state Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch claims the Senate secretary illegally fired and defamed him, falsely accusing him of “extortion” and “blackmail.”
     Michael Brodkorb sued Minnesota, the Minnesota Senate and Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman, in Ramsey County Court.
     Brodkorb, who was hired in 2008 and worked as communications director for the Minnesota Senate Majority Caucus, claims Republican leaders fired him because of his intimate relationship with Sen. Koch. CBS News described her as the first female head of the Minnesota State and “a rising GOP star.”
     According to the complaint, “in September of 2011, Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel, through Chief of Staff Cullen Sheehan, became aware that Brodkorb was involved in an intimate relationship with Senator Koch.”
     On Dec. 14, 2011, state Sens. Michel, Chris Gerlach, Claire Robling and David Hahn met with Koch “to discuss the above senators’ knowledge of an intimate relationship between Senator Koch and Brodkorb, and their request that she resign immediately and Brodkorb be terminated from his position,” the complaint states.
     “Senator David Hahn specifically stated at the meeting that Brodkorb would need to be terminated from his position, and that Ludeman, Secretary of the Minnesota Senate, would be contacted after Senator Koch resigned so that Ludeman could terminate Brodkorb.”
     The next day, Koch resigned as Senate Majority Leader and said she would not seek re-election, according to the complaint. The day after that, on Dec. 16, Ludeman fired Brodkorb, “effective immediately,” the complaint states.
     When Ludeman fired him, Brodkorb says, Ludeman told him, “‘This is off the record Michael, but those … there’s two issues that related to the events of yesterday and the question has been posed as early as last night about your status …’
     “The two issues, referred to by Cal Ludeman, were the resignation of Senator Koch as Senate Majority Leader the previous day, and the fact that Brodkorb had an intimate relationship with Senator Koch.” (Ellipses in complaint.)
     Brodkorb says his firing was illegal. He says Ludeman did not offer to transfer to a different job, and that “Similarly situated female legislative employees, from both political parties, were not terminated from their employment positions despite intimate relationships with male legislators.”
     He claims he “was treated differently in his employment than similarly situated female employees” and “was terminated based on his gender.”
     He adds: “Senator Koch will testify that Brodkorb’s employment was terminated by the Republican Leadership because of the intimate relationship between Senator Koch and Brodkorb, as will other legislators and legislative staffers.”
     It got really nasty when he applied for unemployment benefits, Brodkorb says.
     “On or about March 13, 2012, the plaintiff served the Minnesota Senate with a Notice of Claims letter, which is required by State statute, stating that the Minnesota Senate had discriminated against Brodkorb based on his gender in violation of Federal, State and local laws,” according to the complaint.
     The next day, Brodkorb says, Ludeman issued a press release, “Despite Mr. Brodkorb’s efforts to disrupt the work of the Senate in the current legislative session, to distract members of the Senate, to extort a payment from the Senate, and to try his so-called claims in the media, the Senate will not allow that to succeed.
     “Ludeman also stated on or about March 15, 2012 to a newspaper reporter (the Star Tribune), that was published to third parties, that Brodkorb was trying to ‘blackmail’ the Minnesota Senate. Specifically, Ludeman stated, that Brodkorb was attempting to ‘blackmail’ the Senate, disrupt its work, and ‘extort’ payment.
     “Stating that a person is extorting or blackmailing another person is a criminal act and is defamation per se,” the complaint states.
     So on April 5 Brodkorb says he served the Minnesota Senate again with a Notice of Claims letter, informing members that there were additional claims for defamation.
     “On April 13, 2012, multiple newspapers and media outlets (aka ‘news articles’) publicized that Brodkorb applied for unemployment benefits, was denied unemployment benefits, and appealed the denial of his unemployment benefits,” the complaint states.
     “Ludeman was the person who disseminated Brodkorb’s unemployment benefits information to third parties, without Brodkorb’s permission.”
     Brodkorb says that under Minnesota law, information about his unemployment status is “absolutely privileged” and private.
     On June 25, he served the Minnesota Senate with his third Notice of Claims letter, alleging privacy invasion.
     He claims the defendants’ “slanderous and defamatory statements caused permanent damages to plaintiff’s professional reputation.”
     Brodkorb seeks damages for defamation, sex discrimination and privacy invasion. He is represented by Philip Villaume with Villaume & Schiek.

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