Republican Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem and Deputy Senate Majority Leader Julianne Ortman met privately today at a St. Paul coffee shop with former Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb. MPR News learned of the meeting, which was later confirmed by Senjem. Brodkorb has said he plans to sue the Senate for wrongful dismissal after he was fired from his job last December.
Senjem would not say what was discussed at the meeting.
“We had a brief conversation,” Senjem said. “I can’t go any further than that because it’s a private conversation.”
Ortman didn’t return calls. Brodkorb said in an e-mail that he no comment about the meeting.
Brodkorb’s attorney, Phillip Villaume, was surprised to hear of the meeting.
“It’s news to me,” Villaume said. He said he had “no clue” when first asked about the focus of the meeting. Later Villaume said it was a 10 minute “by chance meeting.” He said there was a discussion about Brodkorb’s suit against the Senate. Another person with knowledge of the meeting said Brodkorb, Senjem and Ortman met for roughly 30 minutes.
Villaume said he didn’t know what specifically was discussed at the meeting and said Brodkorb would not discuss the issue further. Villaume also stressed that the meeting was “not a lawyer authorized meeting.” He said Brodkorb is still his client. Brodkorb’s attorneys had been pushing for an outside mediator to settle the issue, but that idea was later rebuffed by Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman.
The meeting between Senjem, Ortman and Brodkorb comes less than a week after the Senate Rules Committee approved $85,000 in legal fees to an outside attorney who is preparing to defend the Senate in Brodkorb’s pending lawsuit.
Brodkorb filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming he was dismissed because of gender discrimination. Villaume said he expects the EEOC to issue a what’s known as a right-to-sue letter in two weeks. That letter could pave the way for Brodkorb to file a lawsuit in federal court.
Villaume says Brodkorb will seek at least $500,000 in damages. He claims that he was wrongfully dismissed for having an affair with Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. His attorneys say he dismissed even though female staffers remained in their jobs even though they had affairs with male lawmakers.
Koch stepped down from her leadership position in December after being confronted about the affair. She is not running for re-election.