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Troubling claims also expose Democrat hypocrisy

Regardless of the merits of the allegations, a sexual harassment complaint against Republican Louisiana Sec. of State Tom Schedler raises questions about his fitness to serve, and on the side exposes the hypocrisy of state Democrats.

Last week, a departmental employee filed suit against Schedler for illegal discrimination, harassment, and reprisals. She alleges a decade-long pattern of behavior, stemming from the time he first became employed in the office, where she had taken a job three years earlier, through his appointment, election, and subsequent reelection to the post to the present. He maintains they once had a consensual sexual relationship, which the woman denies, and admitted he has remained separated from his wife for an extended period of time.

The suit broadly references episodes of Schedler’s reportedly intrusive behavior that occasionally resulted in personnel actions the plaintiff believed retaliatory in nature. While the document gives a few details here and there that in isolation could be interpreted as supporting the woman’s contentions, only a full trial can produce convincing evidence.

Information contained in the suit and public statements made both point to questionable behavior by both parties. Why did the woman stay under Schedler’s employ for so long if she felt so abused; unless she was an unclassified, at-will employee she could have arranged for a lateral or better transfer elsewhere in state government? And why did she wait a decade to pursue relief, after, according to her petition, a consistent pattern of behavior had emerged, repeated frequently? She also accused him of sending her to a series of deadhead jobs at a high salary, which, interestingly, not every state employee would find objectionable.

These points invite skepticism about the nature of their relationship that, again, only a trial or settlement could clarify. But in terms of his job performance, removed from the issue of their relationship whatever that was, these raise serious concerns.

In essence, these claim Schedler, who like other state elected executives has felt the pinch of tight state finances, wasted money on an employee doing no work instead of, for example, staffing museums better. Personnel records and work products easily could verify the woman’s contention on this account. If true, this also violates R.S. 42:1161(F).

News of the filing brought swift condemnation from state Democrats, with the party’s Executive Director Stephen Handwerk saying Schedler should resign if he can’t clear his name. Handwerk’s hypocrisy, reflective of his party’s leadership as a whole, couldn’t be starker: when former state Sen. Troy Brown engaged in a series of abusive actions towards women that led to his conviction and subsequent resignation over a year later, at no point did Handwerk ever call for Brown’s departure, whereas it took him all of a few hours to voice that regarding the GOP’s Schedler.

Schedler barely squeaked into office in 2011, and easily defeated a Democrat challenger wrong on some big issues in 2015. Until demonstrated judicially he violated the public’s trust and/or the woman’s rights, it’s appropriate that he stays in office. However, even if found not to have acted in untoward ways, that he allowed this controversy to brew should cast doubt in voters’ minds concerning his fitness to lead the department, and next year they could seek a candidate with similar policies minus this baggage.

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