State taking steps to change

The American Press

Sexual harassment accusations against ex-Secretary of State Tom Schedler and a former aide to Gov. John Bel Edwards have led to the formation of a task force charged with tracking Louisiana’s efforts to discourage the conduct.

Schedler is Louisiana’s top public official unseated by sexual misconduct claims since the #MeToo movement began. He resigned in 2018 after a former employee claimed he harassed her for years and punished her when she rebuffed his repeated advances.

Schedler’s spokeswoman said the pair had a consensual sexual relationship. The woman’s lawyer denied that.

The two came to a settlement in August. The agreement involved a $167,500 payment to the woman, no acknowledgment of liability from Schedler and a gag order for all those involved.

Johnny Anderson, Edwards’ deputy chief of staff, resigned in 2017 amid claims he sexually and physically harassed a state employee for more than a year. That included sexually explicit text messages and demands of sexual favors from the aide as early as her job interview, she claimed.

Anderson had a history of harassment accusations involving him that dated back to 2006, when he worked for then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco, according to The Times-Picayune.

A legislative auditor’s review last spring found that Louisiana taxpayers had paid more than $5 million on harassment lawsuits across state government over the past decade. The auditor found that more than 330 harassment claims have been reported internally in the past five years with more than half coming from within the state’s higher education and corrections systems, according to The Advocate.

The auditor also noted at the time that the state had no uniform anti-harassment policy.

The state obviously has a problem, but is working toward correcting it.

The state’s first government-wide policy against sexual harassment has taken effect, requiring agencies to enact policies that include a process for handling complaints, a ban against retaliation when someone files a complaint and mandatory annual prevention training.

The new task force, which held its first meeting at the end of last month, is expected to oversee how state agencies are responding to the new requirements.

“The Legislature is taking these issues very seriously,” Rep. Greg Miller, a Norco Republican and vice chairman of the task force, told The Advocate.

In light of Louisiana’s high-profile sexual misconduct claims recently it’s good to know the state is taking a sincere effort to end all harassment.””

FILE – In this March 14, 2018, file photo, then-Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, accused in a lawsuit of sexually harassing one of his employees, speaks at a press conference in Baton Rouge, La. Schedler announced Tuesday, May 1, 2018, that he will be stepping down May 8 from the position he’s held since 2010. He becomes the highest-level public official in Louisiana to be felled by sexual misconduct accusations since the #MeToo movement began. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)

Melinda Deslatte