In a 2018 photo, Pat MaGee (left), formerly serving as the head of the criminal division for the Louisiana Attorney General's Office, after being tapped for the role by Attorney General Jeff Landry.

A man who says he was just joking when accused of sexual harassment might mislead you about other things, too.

That’s why the best outcome over accusations of sexual harassment against Pat Magee, criminal division director in the Attorney General’s Office, was his resignation. It was best for the women who accused Magee; best for the work environment in the Attorney General’s Office; best for taxpayers who pay supervisors in public jobs to be professionals.

Magee was accused in a November complaint of egregious behavior toward several women who worked in his office. The complaint said that in one instance, Magee rejected the idea of selecting a woman for a job because, he said, she was so physically attractive he might not be able to control himself. In a second complaint, he suggested an attorney be assigned to a case because male jurors would want to have sex with her. 

The attorney general, Jeff Landry, commissioned a review by Vicki Crochet, a Taylor Porter attorney. He says her conclusion was that Magee’s work behavior fell short of sexual harassment, though he has so far refused to release her report. Crochet reviewed complaints against Magee and said his remarks were “joking in nature” — nobody seemed to be laughing — and that there were neither allegations nor findings that Magee had asked for sexual favors, had touched people inappropriately or made sexual overtures.

But the state’s own training suggests Magee harassed employees nonetheless. Both Magee and Landry took state training that advised “a common excuse for those accused of sexual harassment is simply to dismiss their actions as playfulness or joking around.”

You’d think a lawyer would know that, and the public deserves to see whether Crochet covered that ground in her report.

Neither Magee nor Landry needed a law book, though, to show them how to treat employees. Common decency and respect for others would have guided them just fine.

The more Magee’s transgressions come to light, the more offensive they look. And the more they seem to reflect on Landry, the man who kept Magee, his old law school friend, in an important role.

Small wonder, then, Landry has worked hard for his own selfish ends to keep the public from knowing the full, politically embarrassing extent of these complaints, even suing a reporter from this newspaper — Landry lost — when she legally sought a copy of complaints against Magee.

When you’re headed the wrong way — the AG’s office headed the wrong way in this matter — you should turn around. You don’t need a law book to know that, either. You just need a moral compass.

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