MARSHALL - A dark cloud has formed over the Capitol in St. Paul and it has nothing to do with politics.
Ousted Minnesota Senate GOP staffer Michael Brodkorb, fired in December after his affair with then-Majority Leader Amy Koch was exposed, has threatened to expose affairs by other legislators as part of a possible lawsuit concerning his firing.
District 22 Sen. Doug Magnus, who has spent time on the majority leadership team, called this week's events disturbing.
"It's painting the Legislature as basically a free-for-all out there," Magnus said. "That's not the case. There wasn't anything overt out there that was common knowledge on our part of the Legislature between those two, and now Mr. Brodkorb is alleging all kinds of things. But this is not a place where everyone is having affairs with everyone else."
Brodkrop is claiming he is a victim of gender discrimination because female staffers who've had affairs with male legislators haven't been fired in the past, and, according to a notice of claims, will move to "depose all of the female legislative staff employees who participated in intimate relationships, as well as the legislators who were party to those intimate relationships, in support of his claims of gender discrimination." The notice also threatens invasion-of-privacy claims against three former members of the Senate GOP leadership and a current and former Senate staffer.
Brodkorb is seeking more than $500,000 in damages.
Magnus said personal issues like this can have a damaging effect on the Legislature's credibility and paints an unflattering picture of House and Senate members as a whole.
"It promotes the perception that the Legislature is not a place where you have a sound working environment; that's not the case," he said. "One thing you should not do here is let things get personal. To be a good legislator you can't let things get personal."
District 21A Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said the Brodkorb situation should be handed as a human resources matter and nothing more.
"I don't know that person (Brodkorb), but I try not to give it too much time," he said. "Frankly, we've been so cotton-pickin' busy with everything else so I haven't heard too much about it."
Swedzinski is pleased the House passed a GOP-backed measure Thursday night to use rainy-day funds to pay down the state's debts to public schools - a move Democrats oppose, saying it could force the state to take out loans to meet its cash obligations. Gov. Mark Dayton opposes the bill.
"We decided to take $430 million out of reserves and pay back the shift from schools last year and move on; that's a very good thing to do," he said. "Those are things we need to be focusing on."
While he's hoping Dayton will sign the bill, he knows there will be politics involved, meaning a fight from the Democrats.
"I think their argument is we're putting the state at risk," Swedzinski said. "If it is vetoed I believe it would be pure politics."
Republicans say because of the surplus and with state financing on the mend, they are comfortable taking from a reserve fund to begin paying back the schools, which it owes more than $2 billion to after using money destined for them for budget fixes.
On the day of the legislative deadline for the bill, Magnus said he is discouraged about the Vikings bill stalling in committee earlier this week, calling the funding situation a "long, high mountain to climb."
Magnus has worked with the stadium bill's author for the last year and despite some recent progress on legislation said that until people can really get together on the funding source, he doesn't see this issue moving forward in the near future.
"It's very, very frustrating," he said. "It's one of the most frustrating things I've worked on. There's a lot of fingers being pointed in all directions here. All of the leaders of the caucuses are nervous about the election, but we passed the Twins' stadium bill in an election year, and nobody lost the election because they supported the Twins."
The bill to help finance a new stadium for the Vikings stalled Wednesday and prompted Dayton to tighten the screws a bit on GOP legislative leaders to help keep things moving along.
The chairman of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee tabled the stadium bill just minutes before an expected vote was to be held. Its chief Senate sponsor, Sen. Julie Rosen, said concerns from some of her colleagues about a proposed gambling expansion included in the legislation had put its passage in question. GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers opposes public financing of pro sports stadiums.