In his application for unemployment benefits former Minnesota Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb said he didn’t violate Senate policies or commit misconduct. His application was rejected and he has appealed. An unemployment judge held a two-hour hearing on Brodkorb’s appeal this afternoon.
During the hearing, Brodkorb responded “yes” when the judge asked whether he filled out a form that said he “did not violate any internal senate politics or commit employee misconduct.”
The hearing didn’t discuss Brodkorb’s relationship with former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, which Brodkorb says is the reason he was fired from his position. Koch resigned her leadership position on Dec.15. Brodkorb was fired the next day.
The hearing is the latest twist in a brewing legal battle between Brodkorb and the Minnesota Senate. His attorney is preparing to sue the Senate for gender discrimination and argued last Friday that Senate staffers violated his privacy rights after MPR News learned that his unemployment claim was rejected. His attorneys announced in March that they would reveal several female staffers who had affairs with male lawmakers but weren’t fired.
During the hearing, Brodkorb’s attorney Greg Walsh requested that he be allowed to subpoena several witnesses to discuss the rejected unemployment claim. The list includes Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, Deputy Senate Majority Leader Julianne Ortman, Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman, Kevin Matzek, Chief of Staff at the Senate, and current Senate staffer Steve Sviggum. Michel became acting Majority Leader after Koch stepped down. Sviggum was hired to replace Brodkorb.
Senate counsel Dayle Nolan immediately objected to the subpoena requests warning that Walsh was going on “a fishing expedition.”
Judge Elizabeth Tessmer declined to act on the subpoena requests and told both sides to put their arguments in writing. She said she was going to leave the hearing open to weigh the subpoena requests.
The hearing also revealed that Koch has been communicating with Senate GOP leadership about Brodkorb’s dismissal. Matzek confirmed that he, Koch and Senjem discussed on Wednesday a document submitted to the unemployment judge about Brodkorb’s application. The documents are not public information, so reporters weren’t able to inspect them.
The hearing also confirmed that the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development rejected Brodkorb’s unemployment claim. A DEED employee said that the Senate provided no input on Brodkorb’s application.
Judge Tessmer said she may hold another hearing. Her ruling is considered private information, so it may not be known how she decides the appeal.