We welcome the state Legislative Auditor's Office review of policies for handling sexual misconduct. Requested by state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, such a wide review might take time, but Auditor Darryl Purpera said he plans to have a report and any recommendations before the Legislature meets again in the spring.
This issue requires at least some assessment, we think, of whether training is adequate for state employees. Just as the private sector is reassessing its policies and procedures, we hope the auditor will look into not just the availability of training but its effectiveness.
Perhaps the programs in other states are rated higher by experts, or perhaps Louisiana already employs effective types of training. Either way, efficacy of training programs ought to be one of the questions answered in light of misconduct reported at the national as well as local levels.
This is more of an issue than it might have been even a few weeks ago. The national stories of misconduct in Hollywood — little surprise there, maybe — has now swelled into a chorus that is not ignored by the powers-that-be, male as most of them are.
Unfortunately, the prominence of this issue was not high enough two years ago, when Gov. John Bel Edwards hired as one of his top officials Johnny Anderson, accused of misconduct while an aide to former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and member of the Southern University Board of Supervisors.
The governor's office said that there was no confirmation of the charges before his hiring then, but recent complaints forced an investigation in Edwards' office. Anderson resigned, saying he wanted to be able to fight to clear his name. Lawyers have been engaged, doubtless at considerable state expense, to investigate the charges and, potentially, protect the state's interests in any future litigation.
We applaud the governor's efforts to change things. As leader of the executive branch, he has ordered a comprehensive review of policies and procedures in those state agencies. His charge to the task force: “Every person, whether they work in state government or private industry, should be able to do their jobs without fear of being sexually harassed or discriminated against,” Edwards said. “There is no circumstance under which harassment or discrimination of any kind will be tolerated by my administration."
Still, the auditor's report might either supplement or expand upon those findings and new policies, which apparently vary considerably depending on the agency. Some of them, perhaps many of them, have something in the way of training on dealing with subordinates in a responsible manner, but clearly in the new atmosphere the commitment on this issue must be higher.
Just going through the motions is not what we feel the public wants to see in state government's efforts to avoid sexual misconduct cases going forward.