Ex-Louisiana official doesn’t admit guilt in suit settlement
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The legal settlement that ended a sexual harassment lawsuit against Louisiana’s former secretary of state includes no admission of guilt and a gag clause to keep those involved from talking about it, according to documents released Wednesday.
Tom Schedler, who resigned in May as Louisiana’s chief elections official, and a female former employee who accused Schedler of harassment agreed to the settlement terms at the end of August.
The agreement involved a $167,500 payment to the woman and no acknowledgment of liability from Schedler. All participants in the negotiations are barred from talking to the media about the settlement and its provisions.
The Division of Administration, a state agency involved in resolving the legal claims, provided the settlement documents Wednesday to The Associated Press in response to a records request, after releasing the payment figures last week.
“This is a settlement of disputed claims and allegations for which the state parties have not admitted liability and for which there has been no finding of liability on the part of the state parties,” one document says.
Louisiana taxpayers are paying $149,075 as part of the settlement, 60 percent through the secretary of state’s office and the rest through the Office of Risk Management, Louisiana’s self-insurer. Schedler is personally paying $18,425.
A state district judge signed paperwork ending the litigation on Oct. 9. The Associated Press doesn’t normally name alleged victims of sexual harassment.
A Republican in office since 2010, Schedler was Louisiana’s top public official unseated by sexual misconduct claims since the #MeToo movement began.
The sexual harassment lawsuit was filed in February, alleging Schedler harassed the woman for years and punished her when she rebuffed his repeated advances. The lawsuit said the harassment began about a decade ago and escalated. Schedler’s spokeswoman said the pair had a consensual sexual relationship. The woman’s lawyer denied that.
Schedler initially refused to step down, but he reversed course in May after the release of sexually themed emails Schedler sent to the woman who sued him. He called the lawsuit “unfair,” but never directly responded to its specific allegations, saying at one point “the truth lies somewhere in the middle.”
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.
The taxpayer-financed settlement of Schedler’s lawsuit comes after 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, but denied the allegations in the legal settlement.
A legislative audit released in April showed Louisiana has spent more than $5 million on lawsuits involving sexual harassment claims since 2009.
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