Gov. John Bel Edwards says his administration will "obviously be more careful" in hiring a new deputy chief of staff to replace an ex-aide who recently resigned amid an investigation into sexual harassment allegations.
"We don't have a timeline or a person in mind yet," Edwards told The Advocate in a State Capitol hallway on Thursday.
Edwards has said little publicly about allegations lodged against his former deputy chief of staff for programming and planning Johnny Anderson, who resigned Nov. 22 after Edwards launched an internal investigation into the claims. Anderson has denied wrongdoing.
The state has retained an outside attorney in anticipation of litigation from the woman, also a state employee.
Edwards formed a task force to review the sexual harassment and discrimination policies of each state agency within the executive branch; research harassment and discrimination prevention efforts; develop new employee orientation procedures; and come up with a clear reporting and investigation process for allegations.
"We are inventorying all of our policies on the issue, and we will update those for uniformity," Edwards said Thursday.
All state agencies that fall under Edwards have also been directed to review their own policies and submit reports to his administration by Jan. 1.
Separately, the allegations against Anderson have prompted a review from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor at the request of a state senator who has questioned why Anderson, who previously faced harassment allegations in 2006 when he worked for then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco's administration, was hired to work in Edwards' office. Anderson, who was never found guilty of wrongdoing in the 2006 allegations, has said he was never asked about previous allegations when he was seeking the job in Edwards' administration.
"I would have to imagine that would be a topic of conversation, but it won't be something that I dwell on because we'll obviously be more careful," Edwards said Thursday.
The task force, which Edwards established by executive order, will submit a full report to the governor by March 1. The panel will include seven as-yet unnamed human resources professionals from state government and the private sector. Members of the panel are expected to be revealed on Friday and hold their first meeting on Monday.
Anderson has denied all sexual harassment allegations — past and present — that have been lodged against him. He spoke to The Advocate about the latest allegations after they were made public the day before Thanksgiving, but has not responded to multiple messages since.
The allegations were revealed during a national outpouring of harassment allegations against high-profile men across various industries but particularly in politics and the media.
The Louisiana Legislative Women's Caucus, guided by the Senate Select Committee on Women and Children, has launched a probe into House and Senate sexual harassment policies. A hearing on the issue has twice been postponed, once because of weather and once for scheduling conflict. Members expect to meet in January to start examining current policies.
The Legislative Auditor's review, done at the request of Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, will look into hiring policies and policies in place to discourage harassment, as well as how much the state has paid to cover harassment claims.