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Koch resignation follows allegation of improper relationship

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's first female Senate majority leader resigned after fellow senators confronted her with allegations she had an inappropriate relationship with a male Senate employee.

Four senators on the Republican leadership team told reporters Friday that Senate staffers told more than one of them that they felt the relationship between Sen. Amy Koch and the worker was hurting the work environment.

"This is a painful experience for all of us involved," said Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester.

Senjem and four other senators knew of the allegations for up to two weeks and four of them met Wednesday with Koch on the subject. Those in the meeting said the Buffalo Republican did not confirm or deny the allegations, which the senators stopped short of calling a sexual affair.

The senators said that Koch brought up the possibility of resigning, but did not tell them of her decision in advance.

Koch's office had no immediate response to this afternoon's developments.

Senators would not say who the male staffer is or give any details about him or his job. He remains on the Senate payroll.

"We were really as surprised as all of you to see the resignation at the end of the day yesterday," interim Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, told reporters this afternoon.

After their Wednesday meeting, Koch had little contact with other senators.

The 40-year-old senator served as majority leader a year, after helping win a Republican majority in the body in 2010. She and House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, were the faces of the GOP legislative leadership in extended budget talks with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

A one-time Concordia College in Moorhead student, Koch was a Russian language expert for the Air Force before winning a Senate seat from just west of the Twin Cities in 2005. She mostly labored behind the scenes until her majority leader election a year ago.

While Michel is interim leader, Republican senators will elect a new permanent leader within two weeks.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.