DFL senators have filed an ethics complaint against retiring Republican Sen. Geoff Michel for fudging the timeline of his knowledge of an affair between former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and staffer Michael Brodkorb to allegedly protect a whistleblower.
DFLers say Michel, who was serving as interim majority leader after Koch resigned from her position in December, told reporters at a news conference that he first heard staff complaints regarding Koch and Brodkorb’s relationship just two weeks earlier. But former Senate GOP caucus Chief of Staff Cullen Sheehan later told MPR news he had approached Michel about the relationship in September, or about three months prior to the news conference.
Michel later confirmed to reporters that he had heard about the relationship in September, but said he was trying to protect the identity of Sheehan, who had recently resigned from his Senate position to take a lobbying job.
In the ethics complaint signed by Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFLers say Michel failed to act quickly enough to restore a “safe working environment” for senators, “betrayed the public’s trust” by reporting an inaccurate timeline to the media and brought the Senate into “dishonor and disrepute.”
In a news conference on Monday, DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk stressed that GOP caucus failed to investigate the matter for itself. Bakk and Pappas said they did not anticipate seeking interviews with anyone but Michel, from whom they wanted both an apology and an explanation of his conduct during the months between time he learned of the affair and acted on that knowledge.
Pappas held out the prospect that a complaint could be withdrawn if Michel apologized on the Senate floor, but stressed that the apology would have to contain answers to the questions contained in the complaint, such as why he sat on the information for so long.
In a statement, Michel said the move is “about politics and payback and has nothing to do with ethics.”
“The DFL wants a few more headlines. The conflict of interest has been resolved. The workplace environment has improved,” he said. “And, we did this while protecting whistleblowers and staff. I have asked for an immediate hearing to resolve this matter.”
Various senators and staffers are quoted in the six-page complaint, including Sheehan and Senate GOP communications head Steve Sviggum, who was brought in to replace Brodkorb after he was fired from the position.
Michel served as deputy majority leader in the Senate until December, when the Senate GOP caucus elected an all-new team in the wake of the Koch scandal. In early March, the Edina senator announced plans to retire from the chamber after 10 years in office.