APNewsBreak: Louisiana pays $149K to settle harassment suit
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has agreed to pay nearly $150,000 to end a sexual misconduct lawsuit against a former Republican secretary of state who resigned in May, the state’s highest public official felled by accusations during the #MeToo movement.
Tom Schedler, who was Louisiana’s chief elections official while he held the post, will personally pay his female ex-worker $18,425 on top of the taxpayer-financed amount of $149,075 under settlement details obtained by The Associated Press from a state agency, the Division of Administration. The payments resolve legal claims that Schedler sexually harassed the woman when she worked for him.
With the settlement reached, a state district judge signed paperwork ending the lawsuit.
Schedler, a Republican in office since 2010, left the statewide elected position five months ago. A longtime elected official from the New Orleans suburbs, Schedler’s departure came amid intensifying scrutiny of the misconduct allegations and increasing calls for him to leave the post.
The sexual harassment lawsuit was filed in February, alleging Schedler harassed the woman 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 Associated Press doesn’t normally name alleged victims of sexual misconduct.
The woman claimed Schedler frequently sent her love letters, sexually propositioned her and showed up at her doorstep with unwanted gifts, including sex tapes. She claimed Schedler enlisted help from state security personnel to report on her whereabouts. The lawsuit said the harassment began about a decade ago and escalated over the years.
Despite suggestions he should resign, Schedler initially refused to step down. But he reversed course and left the job in May after the release of sexually themed emails Schedler sent to the woman who sued him.
A special election will fill the remaining year of Schedler’s term. Until then, Schedler’s former first assistant, Kyle Ardoin, has moved into the job. Ardoin, a Baton Rouge Republican, is running on the Nov. 6 ballot to stay in the position, competing against eight other candidates.
Of the taxpayer-financed settlement amount, Division of Administration spokesman Jacques Berry said more than $58,000 will be paid by the Office of Risk Management, Louisiana’s self-insurer, and $90,450 by the secretary of state’s office.
Schedler and his attorney didn’t return calls seeking comment Thursday. The woman’s lawyer, Jill Craft, said she couldn’t discuss the terms of the agreement.
The settlement is the latest in a string of payments Louisiana has made in recent years to end the legal wrangling over sexual harassment claims.
A legislative audit released in April showed Louisiana has spent more than $5 million on lawsuits involving sexual harassment claims since 2009. That includes payments to people who filed claims as well as lawyers’ costs.
Louisiana spent nearly $108,000 earlier this year to respond to claims that Johnny Anderson, a former top aide to Gov. John Bel Edwards, sexually harassed a woman when they worked together in the governor’s office. Anderson left his position in November after the accusations were lodged and continued to deny the allegations in a legal settlement.
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