Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden

Allegations that Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden sexually harassed a woman seeking business with the city are a shame for Baton Rouge, which desperately needs sustained and engaged leadership to address its challenges.

In a 2011 lawsuit that eventually was settled out of court but only brought to public light this week, a former executive with the engineering firm Tetra Tech, Cynthia Sloan, alleged that Holden made numerous unwanted sexual advances toward her, through groping, texting and handwritten notes. The alleged behavior occurred as the firm was seeking business with the city-parish government. Holden wasn’t named as a defendant in the suit, which alleged that Tetra Tech turned a blind eye to Sloan’s complaints about Holden to advance its business interests.

“My wife and I took one of the (Tetra Tech) women to dinner and to my birthday party as our guest. ... Anything more than that did not occur,” Holden said in a written statement about the allegations.

Because these allegations never went to trial, we may never know what, if anything, transpired between Holden and Sloan. If Holden has any texts, emails or written notes that he sent to Sloan as part of the city’s business, he should make them public. Allegations this serious underscore the importance of public transparency and accountability. That’s why the mayor also should make himself available for questions about Sloan’s allegations. The citizens Holden was elected to serve deserve nothing less.