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US Louisiana elections chief quits amid sexual misconduct claim

21:01  01 may  2018
21:01  01 may  2018 Source:   ap.org

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He is the most prominent Louisiana political figure to face sexual misconduct allegations amid the #MeToo movement. Before Schedler, one of Edwards’ deputy chiefs of staff was accused of sexual harassment in November and immediately resigned. ___ Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http

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FILE - In this March 14, 2018, file photo, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, accused in a lawsuit of sexually harassing one of his employees, speaks at a press conference in Baton Rouge, La. Schedler announced Tuesday, May 1, 2018, that he will be stepping down May 8 from the position he's held since 2010. He becomes the highest-level public official in Louisiana to be felled by sexual misconduct accusations since the #MeToo movement began. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)© The Associated Press FILE - In this March 14, 2018, file photo, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, accused in a lawsuit of sexually harassing one of his employees, speaks at a press conference in Baton Rouge, La. Schedler announced Tuesday, May 1, 2018, that he will be stepping down May 8 from the position he's held since 2010. He becomes the highest-level public official in Louisiana to be felled by sexual misconduct accusations since the #MeToo movement began. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana's secretary of state announced Tuesday that he is leaving his elected position as calls for his resignation increased amid allegations that the state elections chief sexually harassed one of his employees.

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Secretary of State Tom Schedler said in a letter to the governor that he will be stepping down May 8, becoming the highest-level public official in Louisiana to be felled by sexual misconduct accusations since the #MeToo movement began unseating people in positions of power in Hollywood, the media and government.

"I leave office with a heavy heart knowing I have disappointed the people in my life who care for me the most," Schedler said in the letter. "But I also have experienced from them the miraculous power of forgiveness and grace during the twilight of my career, and for that I am grateful."

The Republican secretary of state had previously announced plans to stay until his term ended in January 2020, despite a pending sexual harassment lawsuit against him by an employee. But the drumbeat for Schedler's resignation grew louder after the release of sexually themed emails Schedler had sent to the woman who sued him.

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Reference: Louisiana elections chief quits amid sexual misconduct claim from AP. When an unexpired terms of a statewide elected official exceeds one year, the First Assistant Secretary of State (Kyle Ardoin) fills the unexpired term of office [ Louisiana Constitution, Article IV, Section 16].

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A special election will fill the remainder of Schedler's term.

Tuesday's announcement was a stunning fall for Schedler, a longtime elected official from the New Orleans suburb of St. Tammany Parish who was well-liked by colleagues and known for his bipartisan approach to the job he's held since 2010.

But in February, one of Schedler's employees filed a lawsuit, claiming Schedler harassed her for years and punished her when she rebuffed his repeated advances. Schedler's spokeswoman said the pair had a consensual sexual relationship. The woman's lawyer denies that.

The woman claims Schedler frequently sent her love letters, sexually propositioned her and showed up at her doorstep with unwanted gifts, including sex tapes. She claims Schedler enlisted help from state security personnel to report on her whereabouts. The lawsuit says the harassment began about a decade ago and escalated over the years.

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Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and several female lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, urged Schedler to leave office after the lawsuit was filed.

The secretary of state refused to step down, but announced in March that he wouldn't run for re-election next year. In that March press conference, Schedler didn't directly respond to the allegations or deny them beyond calling the lawsuit "unfair." At the time, he said that "the truth lies somewhere in the middle." He refused to answer questions.

Then, he went back to work, showing up to budget and other legislative hearings at the Louisiana Capitol and seeming likely to hang onto his position until the next regularly scheduled election.

But accusations of Schedler's misconduct returned to the forefront last week with the release of the sexually suggestive emails, which were sent on a state account and obtained by The Advocate. The emails showed the secretary of state telling the woman he loved her, demanding she spend time with him and calling her a "hot gal."

Schedler's office partially blacked out parts of the communications between the secretary of state and the woman in its response to The Advocate's public records request, but the newspaper obtained complete versions of some of the emails, showing many of the redacted sections contained sexually themed or embarrassing remarks by Schedler.

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After the release, Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy called on Schedler to resign, saying the emails show the secretary of state "crossed the line and abused his position." GOP U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy also followed suit, saying Schedler should end his tenure in office.

"Increasingly it appears the allegations against Secretary Schedler are true," Cassidy said in a statement.

A former state senator, Schedler was working as first assistant to the secretary of state when he moved to the top job after his predecessor won election to a new position. Schedler then won the secretary of state's office in the 2011 election and was re-elected four years later.

He is the most prominent Louisiana political figure to face sexual misconduct allegations amid the #MeToo movement. Before Schedler, one of Edwards' deputy chiefs of staff was accused of sexual harassment in November and immediately resigned.

___

Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

FILE - In this March 14, 2018, file photo, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, accused in a lawsuit of sexually harassing one of his employees, speaks at a press conference in Baton Rouge, La. Schedler announced Tuesday, May 1, 2018, that he will be stepping down May 8 from the position he's held since 2010. He becomes the highest-level public official in Louisiana to be felled by sexual misconduct accusations since the #MeToo movement began. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)© The Associated Press FILE - In this March 14, 2018, file photo, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, accused in a lawsuit of sexually harassing one of his employees, speaks at a press conference in Baton Rouge, La. Schedler announced Tuesday, May 1, 2018, that he will be stepping down May 8 from the position he's held since 2010. He becomes the highest-level public official in Louisiana to be felled by sexual misconduct accusations since the #MeToo movement began. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)

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