Former Secretary of State wants Louisiana to reimburse $32K for settlement

Louisiana News

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s former secretary of state, who resigned last year amid sexual harassment allegations, wants the state to reimburse him $32,000 for his costs of a settlement that ended the misconduct lawsuit against him.

Tom Schedler was sued by a woman who worked in his office and claimed Schedler repeatedly harassed her.

The state paid $184,000 on the case, including lawyer fees. As part of the settlement, the woman alleging the harassment received $167,500, including $18,425 that Schedler paid personally.

The Advocate reports that Schedler filed a lawsuit in February against the state, seeking payment of $14,308 in his attorney fees and costs, plus reimbursement for his share of the settlement.

Schedler is arguing the state didn’t provide him an individual defense in the case, as required by law. Schedler hired a personal attorney, Floyd Falcon Jr., during the original lawsuit against him. He contends the state “did not satisfy its legal obligation to provide defense counsel to Schedler individually,” only in his official capacity as secretary of state.

Spokesmen for the Division of Administration and Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office, wouldn’t comment on Schedler’s lawsuit against the state, citing policies against talking about ongoing litigation.

But in court documents, the state responded it was “unnecessary and wasteful” for Schedler to have his personal attorney file exceptions in the original case. Attorneys hired by the state didn’t need to appear on behalf of Schedler in his individual capacity because the lawsuit was settled before Schedler was even served, the state said.

“The Attorney General … did provide a defense that was appropriate under the circumstances,” the state’s attorney, Davis “Pepper” Allgood, wrote in the response. “This resulted in a settlement that was highly favorable to Mr. Schedler, to which Mr. Schedler freely agreed.”

Jill Craft, the attorney who represented the woman in the original lawsuit against Schedler, said the new suit “just looks like he is wanting the taxpayers to pay more money.”

A Republican in office as the state’s elections chief from 2010 through 2018, Schedler was Louisiana’s top public official unseated by sexual misconduct claims since the #MeToo movement began.

The sexual harassment lawsuit was filed in February 2018, alleging Schedler harassed the woman for years and punished her when she rebuffed his repeated advances. The lawsuit said the harassment began about a decade ago and escalated. Schedler’s spokeswoman said the pair had a consensual sexual relationship. The woman denied that.

Partly spurred by the Schedler litigation, Louisiana lawmakers this year passed new laws targeting sexual harassment settlements.

One measure prevents the state from keeping victims of harassment silent when settling lawsuits, banning non-disclosure agreements, such as the gag clause included in Schedler’s case.

The second bill aims to require harassers to pay some of their own money when settling a claim.

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