ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Senate Democrats filed an ethics complaint Monday against a Republican lawmaker over his handling of allegations of infidelity against former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, who was spared of her own inquiry.
The complaint against Sen. Geoff Michel accuses him of having "betrayed the public's trust" by making false statements in a news conference about when he first learned of an affair between Koch and a subordinate employee. Michel later acknowledged the discrepancy but said he was trying to protect people involved.
Sen. Sandy Pappas, a St. Paul Democrat, said she wants a public apology and full accounting of what transpired after Koch's affair was discovered.
In a written response, Michel called the complaint "political" and asked for an immediate hearing. He announced recently he isn't running for reelection to his Edina-area Senate seat.
"This is about politics and payback and has nothing to do with ethics. The DFL wants a few more headlines," Michel said. He said the conflict of interest in the Koch matter has been resolved and that the workplace environment has improved even as whistleblowers and staff were protected.
Pappas said Michel's decision not to run for a new term is irrelevant. "He is still subject to the benefits and discipline of the Senate," she said.
Neither Pappas nor Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk intends to file an ethics complaint against Koch. Bakk said she has paid a significant price by resigning her leadership post and facing struggles with her marriage and he didn't want to appear as Democrats were "piling on."
Koch resigned as majority leader in December after Michel and other senators confronted her about the allegations. The employee, Michael Brodkorb, was fired and is threatening to sue the Senate.
Brodkorb has given notice that he may sue for what he considers wrongful termination. Bakk said he doesn't think a public ethics inquiry — as his side is seeking — will expose the state to any more risk in court.
"We do not want this complaint to be any kind of vehicle that puts the Senate in more liability than it's already in," Bakk said. "Our intent is to keep this very narrowly focused."
Senate Majority Leader David Senjem said he doesn't think Michel did anything wrong deserving of an ethics complaint. But the top GOP senator said the matter will have to be handled carefully.
"I don't know how public this can be given the pending lawsuit," Senjem said. "That's for lawyers to decide."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.