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Brodkorb breaks silence on affair, firing after gag order lifted

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It's been nearly a year since Michael Brodkorb was fired from his position as a powerful senate staffer following his affair with then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, and he gave his first interview about the experience to FOX 9 News.

Brodkorb has kept quiet while his wrongful termination suit has been working through the court system, but a federal judge lifted a gag order on Friday after Senate members repeatedly violated it by talking to the media either anonymously or on the record.

One year ago, Brodkorb was indisputably one of the most powerful men in Minnesota politics. He was not only the deputy chief of the Minnesota Republican Party, but he was also the communications director for the Senate. In that capacity, he skillfully controlled messages about the happenings at the Capitol -- but since he was ousted, he hasn't had control over the dialogue until now.

"I want to unconditionally apologize to my friends and family, and others impacted by my decision, mistakes," he said. "I will carry that for the rest of my life."

Along with Koch, he helped orchestrate the first Republican takeover of the Minnesota Senate in 40 years -- but their relationship wasn't strictly professional. The two were having an extramarital affair.

"What most people don't know is: My family had known about it. We were dealing with and working through it," Brodkorb told FOX 9 News.

Brodkorb says that in September of last year, he was confronted about the affair by his boss at the time, Senate Chief of Staff Cullen Sheehan. When that happened, Brodkorb said he told the truth.

"At no time did Cullen say, 'You've got to leave now or X, Y, Z will happen to you," he recalled.

Rather, Brodkorb said Sheehan was supportive and they'd begun talking about moving him to a different position, which is consistent with the nepotism policy outlined in the Minnesota Senate rules. Brodkorb said it was being handled as a human resources issue.

"I felt I had a friend," Brodkorb said.

However, rumors started to swirl inside the Capitol. Brodkorb said Sheehan had told other people about the affair without his knowledge, and he felt betrayed.

Even so, Brodkorb says enjoyed the most productive two months of his political career while working with Democrats and the governor's office to get a Vikings stadium deal done -- but it didn't last long.

Two weeks before Christmas on Dec. 14, Koch attended a meeting at the Minneapolis Club where she expected to talk about the stadium. Instead, she was ambushed by Sens. Geoff Michel, David Hann, Chris Gerlach, and Claire Robling. They confronted her on the affair and gave her an ultimatum, according to Brodkorb.

"Sen. Hann communicated, 'You will resign from leadership, Ludeman will fire Brodkorb, or we will tell the entire caucus,'" Brodkorb told FOX 9 News.

When asked why they waited so long to take action and why they opted to do so in such a public way, Brodkorb described it as a "palace coup."

"It was an attempt to take over the Senate leadership," he said.

Koch resigned from office the very next day, and Brodkorb was fired just 24 hours later. He says he was lured to the Moose Country Bar and Grill in Mendota Heights by his old friend and new boss, Senate chief of Staff Kevin Matzek. Soon, Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman showed up unannounced.

"Cal sits down and tells me I'm being terminated. I ask, why -- he says 'at-will employee' and, ' don't need to tell you, you're an at-will employee,'" Brodkorb recalled.

While Brodkorb was being let go, Senate leaders were holding a conference to announce that Amy Koch had an inappropriate relationship with a staffer. Reporters soon started calling, and Brodkorb says his first thought was to protect his family and his children.

"Telling my family that they need to leave the house, that they need to pack up and go to a relative's house," he remembered. "I didn't want media trucks in my driveway."

Seven months later, Brodkorb filed a lawsuit against the Senate claiming gender discrimination, saying he was fired for having an affair even though female staffers who did the same with male lawmakers often kept their job. He also claimed defamation after Ludeman sent out a press release accusing Brodkorb of trying to extort money from the Senate.

"To have the secretary issue a press release accusing me of a crime and have the word extortion attached to this ... it's just wrong," he said. "It's out of bounds."

While Brodkorb admits that he was very aggressive in the political field, he says he wouldn't wish his experience on his worst enemy. However, he says the pain did not break him. In fact, in some ways, it made him a stronger and better man.

Brodkorb refused to say whether he has maintained the affair with Koch -- as many have speculated -- or whether he may divorce his wife. After seeing his private life in headlines, he said he's guarding his privacy and controlling his message as best as he can while making amends.

"I will never be proud that I had an affair and how I handled it," he said. "The tough conversations with family are not over and I suspect they won't be over for a long time."

Brodkorb is now a blogger once again, which was his first foothold in the political discourse through the site "Minnesota Democrats Exposed." His new site, Politics-Minn is not as partisan. He is also attending classes at the University of Minnesota to get an undergraduate degree in political science.

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