Geoff Michel avoids Senate ethics investigation for handling of Brodkorb-Koch scandal
Michel: "I very clearly was imprecise and needed to be."
Divided along partisan lines, there isn't enough support among Senate Ethics Committee members to launch an ethics investigation into how Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, handled the Amy Koch-Michael Brodkorb scandal.
During a hearing last Friday, the four member committee discussed an ethics complaint filed on March 19 by Sen. Sandra Pappas, D-St. Paul. With a pair of two-to-two votes, the committee ended up deadlocked about whether to start an investigation against Michel and about whether to dismiss Pappas' complaint.
Michel was Senate Deputy Majority Leader when news broke last December of then-Majority Leader Koch's sexual relationship with staffer Micheal Brodkorb. Michel initially said he had heard about the affair just "weeks" earlier, but later admitted then-Senate GOP caucus Chief of Staff Cullen Sheehan first told him of the Koch-Brodkorb tryst back on September 21.
During Friday's hearing, Pappas said, "The false and misleading statements provided by [Sen.] Michel constitute a breach of the public's trust, and are unbecoming of a Minnesota senator," adding that falsehoods "tarnish the reputation of the body and bring into question its credibility."
But Michel, characterizing the complaint as "Monday-morning quarterbacking," said he needed to keep his knowledge of the affair quiet at first, in part to make sure Sheehan wasn't the victim of backlash for whistle-blowing. Hoping for a less acrimonious resolution of the situation, he said he first approached Koch and Brodkorb, but "the majority leader was not willing to resolve the conflict," and Brodkorb "was not willing to step down."
Pappas still hasn't gotten the apology she desires from Michel.
Unsurprisingly, the Republican senators on committee -- chair Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, and Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria -- were sympathetic to Michel's version of events.
Ingebrigsten characterized the allegation that Michel behaved unethically as "purely political," adding that he wouldn't "second-guess" anything Michel did between September and December.
The back-and-forth between the committee's Republicans and Democrats Pappas and John Harrington of St. Paul during the two-plus hour hearing was heated and at times personal. After the pair of two-two votes, the hearing was suspended to make way for a lengthy floor debate on the proposed voter ID amendment. Ethics committee members had agreed to re-start Michel's hearing after the floor debate, but Fischbach and Ingebrigtsen didn't show up. Harrington characterized Fischbach and Ingebrigtsen's decision to skip out as "inappropriate" and "problematic" before the hearing was recessed for the night.
Pappas, until the end, remained flummoxed by Michel's refusal to admit he should've handled the Koch-Brodkorb situation differently in hindsight. She said: "What's the problem with saying, 'I'm wrong and I'm sorry?'"
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