By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter
A Senate Democrat filed an ethics complaint Monday, March 19, against former Senate deputy majority leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, charging that Michel lied to the press and public about his knowledge of the Koch scandal.
“I do think he owes us an apology, said Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, who filed the complaint.
Even though Michel is not seeking reelection, Pappas said, he’s still a sitting senator.
If Michel apologizes on the Senate floor, speaks freely about issues surrounding the Koch matter — a scandal that brought down Minnesota’s first woman Senate majority leader Amy Koch of Buffalo — Pappas would “seriously” consider dropping the complaint, she said.
In the complaint, Pappas charges that Michel brought the Senate into dishonor and disrepute by failing to take swift and appropriate action as deputy majority leader to address the alleged inappropriate relationship between Koch and a subordinate Senate staffer until forced by a pending media story.
Further, Pappas charged that although Michel, as subsequent public comments by Senate staff and Michel himself confirms, she said, knew about the alleged inappropriate relationship in September, at a December press conference Michel indicated that he did not know about the alleged relationship until alerted by Senate staff.
Michel further indicated to the press the staff complaints first surfaced in early December.
“This clearly was not honest,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.
It made no difference Michel was speaking to the media, not to Senate colleagues, Pappas said.
“Lying to the public is lying to us,” she said.
In a statement, Michel suggests the ethics complaint is less inspired by a reverence for truth than politics.
“This is about politics and payback and has nothing to do with ethics. The DFL wants a few more headlines,” Michel said in the statement.
“The conflict of interest has been resolved. The workplace environment has improved. And, we did this while protecting whistle blowers and staff,” he said.
Michel indicated he wanted an immediate ethics committee hearing to resolve the matter.
Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, also said the reasoning behind the ethics complaint was political — “pure politics,” he said.
“I think Senator Michel was acting in a steadfast and judicious manner,” said Senjem.
By Senate rule, the Senate ethics committee must take action within 30 days of filing of an ethics complaint.
According Senate Republican communications director Steve Sviggum, Michel wanted an ethics hearing Monday.
One was tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, March 20, but a committee member was unavailable, he said.
Senate Republicans are anxious to put the Democratic political game playing behind them, Sviggum said.
The complaint comes within days of attorneys for former Senate communications director Michael Brodkorb — Brodkorb has publicly indicated that he was the Senate staffer in the intimate relationship with Koch — suggesting that Brodkorb could file a lawsuit regarding his firing from the Senate unless a settlement was reached.
Brodkorb, through his attorneys, argues that his dismissal was discriminatory.
A Senate attorney depicts Brodkorb’s claim as meritless.
Koch, like Michel, has decided not to seek reelection.
The reason an ethics complaint hasn’t been filed against Koch, Bakk indicated, is because she has suffered as a result of her actions and Democrats did not want to pile on.
Bakk indicated he privately encouraged Republicans to answer unresolved legal and ethical questions surrounding Koch’s resignation.
But he was discouraged by the constant refrain from Republicans that they had moved on, Bakk said.