A key member of Gov. John Bel Edwards' staff resigned Wednesday after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against him, according to a spokesman for the governor.
Deputy Chief of Staff for Programming and Planning Johnny Anderson resigned after the allegations were made, according to Deputy Chief of Staff Richard Carbo.
Carbo said in a statement to The Advocate that the Governor's Office was made aware of the allegations Tuesday and that the office has a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual harassment.
"We take these allegations very seriously," Carbo said. "Upon commencement of the investigative process, Johnny Anderson resigned from the Governor's Office. The investigation will continue, and we are unable to comment any further."
Carbo declined to reveal the details of the allegations against Anderson.
Anderson told The Advocate on Thursday that he is innocent of any wrongdoing and his resignation is not based "even on the thought of guilt."
"I don't want to distract from the governor and the work that he needs to be about and this could be a distraction," Anderson said. "I feel that in order to clear my name, I wanted to make sure that I would do that outside of being his employee, where he has to continuously answer questions from the media and others about me. I'd rather do it as a private citizen."
Anderson said he is aware of a single allegation. He called the situation "very, very disturbing."
He said he has only been told about the allegation, but he had not seen any document containing the details of the alleged wrongdoing.
"I have not read nor seen any of the written documents but once I do and I retain counsel, that I plan to do by this weekend or next week, I want to be able to address it forthright," Anderson said.
"It kind of hit me on the blindside, so I can't respond to it until I can really fully understand and get counseled," he said.
Anderson was previously accused of harassment in 2007 by two Southern University employees while he was the chairman for the Southern's Board of Supervisors. At that time he was Gov. Kathleen Blanco's assistant chief of staff.
University President Ralph Slaughter then filed a lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors and Blanco alleging they retaliated against him after he revealed sexual harassment complaints from female employees against Anderson. Slaughter settled with the university and asked that the lawsuit be dismissed.
Anderson said Thursday that he temporarily stepped aside from his chairmanship duties after those allegations were made so that the board could conduct an investigation. He said he was later exonerated and reinstated as chair.
"I didn't have anything to hide and I wanted them to look at it and to see and to allow the human resources office to investigate, which should have happened from the beginning," Anderson said Thursday.
Anderson indicated someone was trying to malign him.
"When malicious people get involved and try to scandalize your name and any time you get to certain levels, some people decide that that's what they want to do (and) how they best will take you down, but I'm not going to sit by and let that happen."