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Associated Press, Published March 21 2012

Ex-Minnesota Senate employee takes step toward lawsuit

ST. PAUL (AP) — A former Minnesota legislative employee who was fired after having an affair with the Senate majority leader filed a complaint Wednesday that could be a precursor to a lawsuit, his attorney said.

Michael Brodkorb registered a gender discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a necessary step before pursuing an action in court, attorney Philip Villaume said.

Brodkorb, who was paid $90,000-a-year as communications adviser for the Senate GOP, was fired in December soon after Majority Leader Amy Koch resigned her leadership post. No one would publicly confirm that Brodkorb and Koch were having an affair until his lawyers made the admission last week.

Brodkorb has pursued a mediated settlement with the state over his termination, but those efforts have failed. In a news conference outside the EEOC office, he said he was disappointed it was necessary to pursue a lawsuit.

"I know the wheels of state government move slowly, but my attorneys and myself have made every attempt to work in a productive way with the Senate to mediate this throughout," he said.

Brodkorb and his attorneys didn't provide a copy of their EEOC filing, and a clerk in the office wouldn't confirm the filing.

In a notice to the state last week, Brodkorb's attorneys said their client was seeking more than $500,000 in damages.

Brodkorb's team said he will try to prove 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 their jobs despite affairs with male legislators. He has threatened to expose other Capitol relationships.

Senate officials say the termination was handled properly because he was an "at-will" employee. They said they regarded Brodkorb's threats as akin to extortion. Brodkorb attorney Gregory Walsh said Wednesday he planned a defamation lawsuit against Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman because of those comments.

"Extortion is a crime," Walsh said. "For Mr. Ludeman to say Mr. Brodkorb is committing a crime as a state employee that has a legitimate grievance against the state and the Senate, that's pretty outlandish."

Ludeman declined to comment and wouldn't say if he will hire a personal attorney.

New Senate Majority Leader David Senjem said he hoped the incident would blow over quickly, though he wouldn't commit to mediation or another type of out-of-court settlement.

"It's unfortunate," he said of Brodkorb's plan to file a lawsuit. "I guess it's a great American system we have where you can sue anyone for anything."

Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate have filed an ethics complaint against Republican Sen. Geoff Michel over the way he handled the matter when brought to his attention. A hearing is set for Friday. No complaint was brought against Koch, who is serving out the remaining year of her Senate term.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.