State office tryst 'consensual,' Sec. of State says; Democrats suggest resignation
BATON ROUGE – A female employee of the Secretary of State's office filed a lawsuit over sexual harassment allegations.
The suit accuses Secretary of State Tom Schedler, an elected official, of making unwanted sexual advances for years and punishing the woman for not accepting the advances. The woman was identified in court documents as Dawn Ross, a state employee since 2004.
Ross and her attorney, Jill Craft, said in court filings, Schedler has what is essentially a love affair with Ross since they met in 2007. Schedler has become Ross' neighbor, sent her cards and promised her a $75,000 per year job.
In the lawsuit, Ross said the high-paying position did not work out and she was transferred to meaningless positions when she refused Schedler's advances.
Ross believes things got out of control after she agreed to go on a trip to Arizona with Schedler, but strictly “as friends” and while on the trip told him she “will never go out with [him].”
Ross said Schedler spied on her from across the street and had a special state security detail assigned to follow her.
The lawsuit reported: “On at least one occasion, Schedler obtained the license plate number of Petitioner’s boyfriend and had the plate run. Schedler put the print out of the license plate run on his desk for Petitioner to see along with the business address where her boyfriend was employed. Petitioner was threatened by Schedler’s behavior.”
“We take any allegation of sexual harassment very seriously here at the Secretary of State’s Office. 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,” said Secretary of State Tom Schedler in a statement released to WBRZ Thursday.
“My wife and I have been living apart for a long time and our friends and family have known of our personal status and have lovingly supported our decision. We still very much respect one another and are fully committed to sharing in family events with our children and grandchildren as often as possible. While I understand that my service as a public official opens my private life to outside scrutiny, I’ve found support from others who have experienced similar marital issues in their personal life and can empathize,” said Schedler.
Friday afternoon, the Louisiana Democratic Party issued a statement, calling for Schedler to resign.
"Secretary of State Schedler either needs to clear his name or step down," Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk said. "It's deeply troubling that he isn't denying the allegations and is still holding his position. This is beyond party politics. We hope that by morning the republican leaders of our state have strongly condemned these despicable actions and that the only reason they haven't already is because their heads down working on budget compromises."
But, by Thursday evening, Schedler's office had labeled the situation a "consensual relationship."
The suit has been assigned to state District Judge Tim Kelley, The Advocate reported.
Click HERE to read the entire lawsuit.
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