- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 25, 2018

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Accused of sexual harassment in a lawsuit, Louisiana’s secretary of state pledged to state senators Wednesday that his agency is reviewing its anti-harassment policies and will consider improvements.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler came under intense questioning from Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, the New Orleans Democrat who chairs the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee that oversees his office. The questions came during a hearing on routine legislation to maintain Schedler’s agency.

Peterson peppered Schedler and his staff with inquiries about the office’s sexual harassment training and response policies. She asked if Schedler had taken anti-harassment training; he replied that he had. Told that the agency’s current policy has been unchanged since 2013, Peterson said revisions should be made “to strengthen what you have now.”

“What are the improvements you can make? This is a fair question,” she said.

Schedler, a Republican who oversees and manages state elections, said his office will provide recommendations to improve its policies to the senators by week’s end.

“I assure you as a committee that we’re going to look at that,” he said.

Schedler said he will “remain out of that process” amid the pending sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Peterson did not directly mention the lawsuit, but she framed the questions as “considering the climate and circumstances.”

The lawsuit filed in February claims Schedler harassed a woman who worked in his office for years and punished her when she rebuffed repeated advances.

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.

Schedler’s spokeswoman has said Schedler had a consensual sexual relationship with the woman, a claim the woman’s lawyer denied. The secretary of state has rebuffed calls for him to resign, but he’s said he won’t run for re-election. His term in office ends in January 2020.

Schedler told the Senate committee that he supports efforts to create a uniform policy against sexual harassment across all government agencies.


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

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