Edwards on Schedler 022818

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards addresses the Rotary Club in Baton Rouge on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018.

Advocate Photo by Mark Ballard

I wonder if 68-year old Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler cares about how people view him. If he does, he must be miserable right now.

Schedler is accused of using his position in state government to sexually harass a female subordinate in a most creepy way. The things he’s accused of go way beyond the usual sexual harassment stories we hear in the media today. Schedler’s was apparently so obsessed with his victim, he bought a house across the street from her. Schedler also is accused of demoting his victim to a lesser job because she rebuffed his sexual advances. Schedler has not denied the serious allegations but has instead claimed he had a sexual relationship with the victim — as though that would excuse obsessive, unstable, and unethical behavior.

Schedler’s victim denies a sexual relationship with her boss. It’s never a good thing when you claim to have had sex with someone and they deny it. State Sen. Sharon Hewitt was the first prominent Republican to call for Schedler’s resignation.

"It is very sad to read charges about someone I've known for years and consider a friend. His admission of an inappropriate relationship with a state worker that reported to him is indefensible," Hewitt said of Schedler, also a Republican, in a statement.

Now, Gov. John Bel Edwards has also called for Schedler to step down. Edwards hired Johnny Anderson as his deputy chief of staff despite Anderson’s history of sexual harassment accusations. You’ll remember Anderson had to resign after once again being accused of sexual harassment while working for Edwards. Anderson denied the charges that were never specified.

"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," Edwards said. "I believe this would be the best path forward for Tom and the state of Louisiana."

Louis Gurvich, chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana, says calls for a resignation are premature.

"We have a system for precisely this sort of thing, the justice system. It may take time to work itself out. Based on the information available to me at this time, I think we just have to let things play out.”

But with Schedler refusing to deny the serious sexual harassment charges, he has little ground to stand on. For the good of the state, he should step down immediately.

Gov. John Bel Edwards joins lawmakers calling for Secretary of State Tom Schedler to resign

We don’t know if Schedler’s victim found the courage to come forward as a result of all the other sexual harassment accusations surfacing nationally and locally as a result of the “me too” movement. There will surely be false accusations during this season of exposing sexual harassment, but overall I believe the phenomenon is a good thing. Women should be honored and respected in the workplace — and everywhere for that matter. Men who abuse their power for sexual favors should be exposed and dealt with and face severe consequences.

Schedler’s spent much of his life as a public figure. He served on the Slidell City Council from 1990 to 1996. He was a state senator for eight years from 1996 to 2008. He’s been secretary of state since 2010. I’m not excusing the allegations of unacceptable and disgusting behavior Schedler refuses to deny, but let’s not forget he is human, and with that humanity comes shortcomings. And with Schedler’s behavior coming to light, his long reputation as a respected public servant has suffered a considerable blow. This must be a difficult time for him and those who love him.

But Schedler’s difficult time does not compare to the possibility that his accuser had to endure years of unwanted sexual advances just to keep her job. Losing a job is no small thing.

Hopefully, the Schedler scandal and the many others like it coming to light will serve as cautionary tales for those in the workplace using their power to sexually harass subordinates. It’s not right and should no longer be tolerated.

Email Dan Fagan at faganshow@gmail.com.