By Ashley Wolf, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday that Secretary of State Tom Schedler should resign immediately in the wake of a lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment.
After a lunch speech at the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, Edwards told reporters that resignation is the “best path forward for Tom and the state of Louisiana.”
“I’ve consistently said that any instances of sexual harassment in the workplace should not be tolerated,” the governor said. “Elected officials must live by an even higher standard.”
“Because of the number of specific allegations in the lawsuit and the fact that he has admitted to conduct that by definition is sexual harassment,” Edwards said, “he should immediately resign his position.”
The governor said he had not spoken to Schedler about the matter.
The woman who filed the lawsuit is an employee in the secretary of state’s office. Schedler, a Republican from St. Tammany Parish, has said that he and the woman had a consensual sexual relationship. The woman has denied that through her attorney, Jill Craft.
The lawsuit claims that Schedler repeatedly harassed the woman for over a decade despite her protests that she was not interested in a relationship. The suit says that Schedler’s advances included a Valentine’s Day card to “My Dearest Sunshine,” roses, wine, clothing and sex tapes.
Some lawmakers already had called for Schedler’s resignation.
Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, said Schedler’s “admission of an inappropriate relationship with a state worker that reported to him is indefensible.”
“I’ve read the detailed and documented accusations of sexual harassment against Tom Schedler,” she said. “It is very sad to read charges about someone I’ve known for years and consider a friend.”
Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, agreed with Hewitt. She said that “it’s definitely unethical” for a state official to have an affair with a subordinate.
“I always thought that he was a little head-and-shoulders above,” she said. “I would have expected it from other folks but not him.”