Gov. John Bel Edwards said Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler should resign in the wake of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Schedler.
“I’ve consistently said that any instances of sexual harassment in the workplace should not be tolerated," Edwards, a Democrat, said when asked by a reporter. "Elected officials must live by an even higher standard.
"Because of the number of specific and serious allegations in the lawsuit and the fact that he has admitted to conduct that by definition is sexual harassment, he should immediately resign his position. I believe this would be the best path forward for Tom and the state of Louisiana.”
Schedler, a Republican, has been accused of sexual harassment by an employee who said in a lawsuit the harassment has been ongoing for almost a decade.
The female employee, who continues to work for the department, said Schedler provided unsolicited gifts like flowers and sex tapes in her lawsuit filed last week in 19th District Court.
Schedler has conceded he had a sexual relationship with the employee, but insisted it was consensual.
"On countless occasions, Schedler showed up at Petitioner’s doorstep with unwanted gifts, including wine, love letters and cards, clothing articles, and even sex tapes which Schedler pronounced would encourage Petitioner to want him," the lawsuit alleges.
Following is an earlier statement from Schedler, who is married but separated.
"We take any allegation of sexual harassment very seriously here at the Secretary of State’s Office," Schedler said in the written statement. "I have not seen the suit or the specific details but as the father of three grown daughters and three granddaughters, I can assure the public that I believe in a safe workplace, free from harassment, and will continue my record of transparency with my constituents."
Schedler's spokeswoman said the secretary of state would have no comment on the governor's statement.
Earlier Tuesday, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, also called on Schedler to resign, as did Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, leader of the Legislative Women's Caucus.
The employee was once Schedler's executive secretary, according to the lawsuit.
She alleges Schedler moved her to less desirable jobs within the department after she rebuffed his sexual advances.
The lawsuit clams Schedler bought a townhouse directly across from the employee so that he could spy on her.
She claims in the lawsuit whenever she played host to friends, "... particularly male friends, over at her house, went out with friends, refused to go to dinner or an event with Schedler, and/or refused his sexual advances, he retaliated by punishing her at work, transferring her to another work site with nothing to do, or embarrassing her at work and in front of her colleagues."
The lawsuit alleges Schedler referred to her as "My Dearest Sunshine" in cards.
The plaintiff is represented by attorney Jill Craft of Baton Rouge.