Minn. Ethics Panel Bogs Down Over Senator’s Case

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota Senate ethics hearing stemming from a sexual affair that brought down the Senate’s majority leader devolved Friday into a testy episode of can’t ask, can’t tell.

Two Democrats and two Republicans on the Senate’s ethics committee deadlocked over whether to dismiss a complaint against Republican Sen. Geoff Michel, move forward with a deeper investigation or revisit the issue after threatened legal action is concluded. The specter of lawsuits made most questions for Michel off limits.

After more than two hours and a pair of 2-2 votes — Republicans unsuccessfully moved for dismissal; Democrats failed in a bid to press ahead — the committee recessed until later Friday. Members never reconvened and gave no date for another hearing.

Michel wasn’t party to the affair but he took the lead role in addressing it internally and informing the public about allegations of infidelity against then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and a high-level GOP staffer.

Democrats accused Michel of deception for supplying an inaccurate timeline of events and for letting three months lapse between learning of the affair and taking decisive action. Michel argued his main aim was to protect the interest of whistleblowers and things he said were deliberately “imprecise” but not misleading.

“We were cleaning this up, not covering it up,” Michel said, criticizing the ethics complaint as politically skewed “Monday morning quarterbacking.”

His lawyer, Bob Maher, told the panel that the only people who tarnished the Senate’s reputation were the two involved the affair.

No ethics complaint was filed against Koch, who is serving out the remainder of her Senate term. The staff member she carried on a relationship with, former Senate GOP communications director Michael Brodkorb, was fired in December. Brodkorb has signaled he will sue for wrongful termination.

Sen. Sandy Pappas, the Democratic lawmaker who filed the complaint, wants Michel to publicly apologize for not moving fast enough once staff members informed him of the relationship and for telling reporters that it was dealt with in a matter of weeks. In fact, a Senate whistleblower said Michel was informed months before anything became public.

“The false and misleading statements provided by Senator Michel constitute a breach of the public trust and are unbecoming of a Minnesota senator,” Pappas said in her opening remarks.

Republicans on the committee stood by Michel as making the best of a difficult situation. Democrats said they couldn’t overlook the conflicting information he provided in the heat of the scandal.

Against that backdrop, the hearing sputtered through often heated back-and-forth.

No new details came to light. Ethics Committee Chairwoman Michelle Fischbach, a Republican, repeatedly warned committee members against delving too far into the affair and the fallout due to concern it would give Brodkorb ammunition in court.

“Our hands are tied because of pending litigation,” Fischbach said.

An outside attorney hired by the Senate was in the room and a couple of times conferred with an in-house lawyer seated at Fischbach’s side. Most of the Senate GOP caucus sat in solidarity in chairs behind Michel, although Koch was not present.

Michel, who voluntarily gave up his post as deputy majority leader, is not running for re-election in the fall.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Balanced Beam

    Way to go, Democrats. Way to keep your eye on the economy instead of wedge issues.

    • GOPSUX

      But of course the dirty republican filth wants to block a legitimate investigation. They don’t want the public’s eyes on their filth and rot.

      • Balanced Beam

        As the DFL has shown over and over again, adultery is not illegal. It’s a standard the GOP voluntarily seeks to meet. If an investigation found that he discovered the two were dating two months earlier, what is the crime in ignoring it? They have already disclosed the relationship and he confirmed when he discovered it.

        The money the DFL wants to spend on a investigation to discover what we already know could be used to fund women’s preventative health. Why do the male DFL leaders hate women so much?

        • the old nurse

          While adultery is not illegal sexual relation between superior and subordinate are unethical. Covering up said affairs are unethical also. Thjs is an ethics complaint.

  • Amy K.

    I wonder if they were discussing my fat a$$ and my nickname which is the buffalo from Buffalo.

  • Mike B.

    When I think of that heiffer Amy, I get all mushy!!

  • angus

    Haven’t see the Republicans worried about the economy. They are too interested in amendments to the Constitution.

    Certainly they want the investigation dropped. They are only gung-ho on investigations in Democrats. If what the former aide said is correct, they hid the incident for a couple of months while they stated they wanted everything in the open

    • Balanced Beam

      Where is the obligation to disclose what the male DFL Senate Majority Leaders were doing for years and years? If failure to report is a crime, there are a whole bunch of legislators and staff in trouble for not reporting the DFL leaders who used the office as a dating service.

      The DFL is so sexist:

      In 40 years of DFL control of the Minnesota Senate, the number of women to serve in the three to Senate posts: 0
      In the first two years of Republican control of the Senate, the number of women in the top three positions: 3

      • jimmy

        Three top positions and one bottom position when the threw Amy under the bus.

  • Raoul Duke

    I heard that Amy Koch was in several positions…

  • Gov Dayton

    Come on, leave my party members alone so they can do the job they have been elected to do! Investigate, spend unlimted tax dollars, whine, assign blame, spend more tax money, enable and grow Big Education, welfare creation, spend more tax money….

    It’s time for me to be inspired by watching my favorite TV cartoon show and character Dora. Gosh, how does she get soooo much in that backpack of hers??

  • Brett

    Pappas is a certified lunatic. What a waste of time, money, and effort. She needs to see a shrink really bad. Michel and Koch are leaving the Legislature after this session, so to drag him through the mud, when he wasn’t personally involved, is pretty senseless, and I don’t really see what the dems hope to “win” from this silly process. What I want to know is, what about all of the OTHER shenanigans that were/are going on with the OTHER legislators that Brodkorb knows about, and is about to unleash. Let’s get ALL of the dirt out in the open, so the voters can make a better decision this fall.

  • G Dog

    Legislative Malfeasance?

    GOP member – no investigation

    DFL member – bring back the Spanish Inquisition

    Republicans are absolute hypocrites.

  • angus

    Typical Republican smear comments with no factual basis.

    Let’s have an agreement:
    The Republicans quit lying about the Democrats
    The Democrats quit telling the truth about the Republicans

    • Sanity

      Is that tinfoil hat comfortable?

  • Death

    Angus took UR’s!

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