Tom Schedler, who resigned last May amid a lawsuit alleging he repeatedly sexually harassed a woman who worked in his office, is trying to get his money back as part of that case.
Though the lawsuit was settled late last year, Schedler is seeking reimbursement for his costs. The state ultimately paid north of $180,000 on the case, including attorneys fees, and the woman who alleged the harassment received $167,500, including $18,425 that Schedler paid personally.
In a lawsuit Schedler filed against the state in February, he argues the state did not provide him as an individual with a defense in the original case, as it was required to by law. He’s seeking reimbursement of attorneys fees and costs of $14,308. He is also requesting reimbursement for the funds he paid in the original case, the suit says.
Schedler is the most significant political figure in Louisiana to resign amid sexual harassment allegations during the national #MeToo movement. Schedler’s resignation, along with a sexual harassment case against Johnny Anderson, a top aide to Gov. John Bel Edwards who later resigned, spurred lawmakers to create statewide policies and change laws surrounding sexual harassment.
Spokesmen for the Division of Administration and Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office both declined to comment, citing policies against talking about ongoing litigation.
Schedler hired a personal attorney, Floyd Falcon Jr., during the original lawsuit against him. He contends the state “did not satisfy its legal obligation to provide defense counsel to Schedler individually,” only in his official capacity as secretary of state.
Falcon did not return a call seeking comment Monday.
The state of Louisiana and Office of Risk Management, the state’s self-insurer, are named in the new lawsuit.
The state responded that it was “unnecessary and wasteful” for Schedler to have his personal attorney file exceptions in the original case. There was no reason for the attorneys hired by the state to appear on behalf of Schedler in his individual capacity because the lawsuit was settled before Schedler was even served, the state said.
“The Attorney General...did provide a defense that was appropriate under the circumstances,” the state’s attorney, Davis “Pepper” Allgood, wrote in the response. “This resulted in a settlement that was highly favorable to Mr. Schedler, to which Mr. Schedler freely agreed.”
The state also said Schedler was told he’d have to pay for Falcon’s services himself, and that Schedler never became entitled to a defense paid for by the state because he was never served.
Jill Craft, the attorney who represented the woman in the original lawsuit against Schedler, said the new suit "just looks like he is wanting the taxpayers to pay more money."
Craft filed suit on behalf of the woman last February. In it, the women alleges Schedler repeatedly sexually harassed her over a period of years while the two worked together in the secretary of state’s office, and that Schedler retaliated against her when she rebuffed his advances.
After the allegations were made public, Schedler initially said he would stay in office but not seek reelection . But he resigned in May, shortly after the Advocate published unredacted state emails and messages that showed Schedler, unprovoked, made sexually suggestive remarks to the woman over several years.
Schedler called the suit “unfair” but didn’t address specific allegations, saying “the truth lies somewhere in the middle.”
Kyle Ardoin, formerly Schedler's top assistant, took over after Schedler resigned and initially said he would not run for the office permanently. But he abruptly changed course and qualified for the election last minute, and was elected to the job full-time in December.
The state Legislature passed two laws dealing with sexual harassment in the recently-ended legislative session.
One, carried by state Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, prevents the state from keeping victims of harassment silent when settling lawsuits, banning non-disclosure agreements.
In Schedler’s case, the settlement included a gag clause to prevent those involved from talking about it. It also included no admission of guilt by Schedler.
Another bill brought by state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, aims to require harassers to pay some of their own money when settling a claim.
“We don’t want people to get a free pass financially when they’re making bad decisions,” Hewitt said earlier this month.