Louisiana paying $85K to end claims against ex-Edwards aide
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana is paying $85,000 to settle claims that a former top aide to Gov. John Bel Edwards sexually harassed a woman when they worked together in the governor’s office.
The governor’s office provided a copy of the taxpayer-financed settlement ending the legal allegations against Johnny Anderson by a former state employee to The Associated Press on Thursday. The document was signed and completed Tuesday.
“The parties have concluded that in order to avoid the cost and uncertainty of litigation of their differences, they wish to and do mutually settle fully and finally any and all claims which the parties have asserted or could have asserted,” the settlement says.
Anderson left his position as deputy chief of staff for programs and planning in November after the accusations were lodged. The document doesn’t detail the allegations beyond saying the woman claimed “she had been subjected to unwelcome behavior by Anderson in connection with their employment.”
He denied wrongdoing, saying he resigned to avoid becoming a “distraction” for the governor, and he continued to refute the allegations in the settlement terms.
“He is entering into this agreement for the sole purpose of avoiding any future cost and disruptions arising out of (the) complaints and is doing so willingly even though he contends that there is no evidence that Louisiana sexual harassment laws or any other applicable laws have been violated,” the agreement says.
Edwards’ office said the $85,000 will be paid by the Office of Risk Management, Louisiana’s self-insurer. The dollars will be split, with $51,000 going to the woman who made the sexual harassment claims and $34,000 paid to Jill Craft, the woman’s attorney, for legal fees.
The Associated Press doesn’t normally name alleged victims of sexual misconduct.
The $85,000 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 recent review of records found the state has paid at least $2.6 million since 2004 to settle nearly four dozen sexual harassment claims, such as allegations made against college professors, judges, health care workers and one former state lawmaker. The data isn’t comprehensive, however, because it doesn’t cover any settlements or judgments paid by individual agencies or college campuses outside of the state-run insurance program.
The settlement involving the Anderson allegations was first reported by NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune.
In his deputy chief of staff position, Anderson oversaw the office of women’s policy, community outreach, faith-based initiatives, elderly affairs and other areas in the governor’s office.
Separately, in 2006, Anderson was accused of sexual harassment by several female employees at Southern University when he worked for then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco and was the university system board chairman. He also denied those allegations.
Edwards has been questioned about why he hired Anderson despite knowing about the previous allegations. The governor has said he felt comfortable hiring Anderson in 2016 because those prior claims were investigated “without any finding” that Anderson had committed the conduct.
“In my years of knowing Johnny, which go back to 2011, I never saw or heard anything, directly or indirectly, that suggested to me that there would be any problem of this type,” Edwards said in December.
He said “within 15 hours of us learning” of the new allegations, Anderson was called into the governor’s office and resigned immediately.
Blanco ordered an investigation at the time, but the lawyer who led the review said the university system didn’t cooperate, making it difficult to determine if the allegations had merit, according to media reports.
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