BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler said Thursday afternoon he had a "consensual" sexual relationship in the past with a female employee who has now accused him of sexual harassment.
The woman's attorney, Jill Craft, says that is absolutely not true. "Maybe in his head," Craft said. "But she did not have consensual sex with that man."
Schedler, through a spokesperson, declined to say whether he was the woman's supervisor at the time he says the consensual relationship occurred.
The Louisiana Secretary of State employee, Dawn Ross, filed a lawsuit Thursday, February 22. She accuses Schedler of making unwanted sexual advances, keeping watch over her home, and trailing her boyfriend's movements. The lawsuit claims Schedler ordered Secretary of State security personnel to monitor Ross' whereabouts.
"The sense that I have from my client is that she had tried to handle what are clearly unwanted attention and affection from this man for years," Craft said.
The woman admits in her lawsuit she did willingly go on a trip to Arizona with Schedler, but only went as a "friend."
In response, Schedler issued a statement, writing, "We take any allegation of sexual harassment very seriously here at the Secretary of State's Office … I can assure the public that I believe in a safe workplace, free from harassment, and will continue my record of transparency with my constituents."
The lawsuit claims that starting in 2008, Schedler "engaged in a pattern and practice of sexual harassment and retaliatory harassment" against Ross.
The lawsuit states Schedler bought a townhome directly across from Ross so that he could monitor her movements. The suit claims whenever Ross had "friends, particularly male friends, over at her house, went out with friends, refused to go to dinner or an event with Schedler, and/or refused his sexual advances, he retaliated by punishing her at work, transferring her to another work site with nothing to do, or embarrassing her at work and in front of her colleagues."
"On countless occasions, Schedler showed up at Petitioner's doorstep with unwanted gifts, including wine … clothing articles, and even sex tapes which Schedler pronounced would encourage Petitioner to want him," the lawsuit alleges.
He also allegedly gave her stacks of cards, often featuring romantic advances and sexual innuendo. In them, he allegedly referred to her as "my dearest sunshine."
In her lawsuit, Ross claims she made multiple attempts over the years to rebuff Schedler, including "directly telling him she is not interested in him sexually and for him to leave her alone."
"I don't know who she would complain to because HR reports to him. She, in her complaints, voiced them directly to him. The fact that he chose not to stop is on him," Craft said.
Schedler's statement also touched on his current separation from his wife. "We still very much respect one another and are fully committed to sharing in family events with our children and grandchildren as often as possible. While I understand that my service as a public official opens my private life to outside scrutiny, I've found support from others who have experienced similar marital issues in their personal life and can empathize," he wrote.
In response to the allegations, the executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party called on Schedler to either "clear his name or step down." Schedler is a Republican.
The full lawsuit can be read below.