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Secretary of State Tom Schelder, currently facing sexual harassment allegations, pauses as he speaks during a press conference, Wednesday, March 14, 2018, at his office in Baton Rouge, La.

The woman accusing Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler of sexual harassment described her longtime boss as a "nightmare" and a "creep," telling an interviewer on Friday that she has felt like "a prisoner in a cave" for the past decade. 

In her first interview since filing a lawsuit, the woman, Dawn Ross, said she tried to be Schedler's friend and hoped "he would get that message, because most people do." She said she was disgusted when Schedler claimed publicly that the two had a "consensual sexual relationship." 

"I just never was" interested, she told Louisiana Radio Network. "I had told him to leave me alone multiple times. I know I said more than that."

Ross' comments came the day after The Advocate published a series of sexually suggestive emails Schedler sent to Ross over several years. The emails showed he would make advances toward his onetime secretary during the course of regular business exchanges. He also invited her on cross-country trips and propositioned her with wine and hand-written Christmas and birthday cards. 

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy called Friday for Schedler, a fellow Republican, to resign from office, saying the emails "show that he crossed the line and abused his position." Kennedy joined state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, and a number of Democrats, including Gov. John Bel Edwards, in calling for Schedler to step aside. 

"It saddens me to say this, but Tom needs to resign," Kennedy said in a statement. "There is no place in Louisiana for sexual harassment in the workplace."

Schedler has not commented on the emails, and his spokeswoman, Meg Casper Sunstrom, declined to comment on Ross' remarks Friday.

Schedler has kept a low profile since the allegations surfaced in February and told reporters last month that he will not seek re-election to a third term in 2019. 

Ross' remarks closely tracked the allegations she made in a lawsuit that accuses Schedler of retaliating against her after she rebuffed his repeated advances. In the interview, Ross said Schedler crossed the line years ago when he began "leaving cards in my chair" at work.

She said she tried "to keep it on a friendship level" and "would ignore a lot of the comments he would make and emails, texts."  

"He would come and sit in my cubicle and just kind of make me really uncomfortable," Ross said. "I think a lot of people were aware that Tom had a thing for me at work. But I don't know, I never talked about it. I tried to just ignore it, because it was uncomfortable. It was kind of insulting and embarrassing."

Ross said she knows "for a fact" that Schedler has "never taken a sexual harassment course at our office — even though he said he did — because secretaries always took that for him."

"Some days I felt like we were friends," she said. "Other days he would yell at me. Other days he would ask me to dinner, lunch, whatever, show up with wine and stuff on my doorstep."

Ross said she felt even more uncomfortable after Schedler purchased a residence near hers in Baton Rouge and began keeping close tabs on her and her visitors.

"I feel like he's already taken 10 years of my life, where I've been a prisoner in a cave at work and at home," she said. "I just really want it to be over. I want to get him out of my life totally."

Ross gave the interview to Jim Shannon, a Baton Rouge journalist who is married to Ross' attorney, Jill Craft. Shannon asked Ross at one point whether she had ever been "a little flirty" toward Schedler. 

"I don't think I come off as too flirty," the woman replied. "I tried to always be nice through the whole thing."

She described a final "blow-up" in which Schedler began screaming at her after she asked to take a couple of days off. She said she told Schedler that "you're not going to do this to me anymore. I said, 'I'm gone.' "

"He got right up in my face and said, 'Get out of this office and don't ever come back here again,' " Ross said. 

She said she was transferred to the Capitol the following day and "sat there with nothing to do." 

"I basically sat in my office for 2½ or three months and just couldn't do it anymore," she said. "I just left and I called my attorney."


Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.