BATON ROUGE — One of Louisiana's U.S. senators Friday called on Secretary of State Tom Schedler to quit his elected position after the release of sexually themed emails Schedler sent one of his employees.
Sen. John Kennedy said the emails, which were sent on a state account and obtained by The Advocate, show his fellow Republican "crossed the line and abused his position."
"It saddens me to say this, but Tom needs to resign. There is no place in Louisiana for sexual harassment in the workplace," Kennedy said in a statement.
The recipient of Schedler's emails claims in a lawsuit filed in February that Louisiana's elections chief harassed her for years and punished her when she rebuffed his repeated advances. Schedler's spokeswoman Meg Casper Sunstrom said the pair had a consensual sexual relationship. The woman's lawyer denies that.
The secretary of state has refused to resign, but said he won't run for re-election next year. Sunstrom said Schedler had no comment Friday on the emails or Kennedy's call for him to step down.
Kennedy joins Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and several female lawmakers in urging Schedler to leave office.
In a March press conference about the lawsuit, Schedler didn't directly respond to any of 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.
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 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, many of which were written during business hours.
Schedler's office said the redactions hid communication "purely of a personal nature." But the full emails show the Secretary of State's Office blacked out sections that contained suggestive or otherwise embarrassing remarks by Schedler.
In one August 2015 exchange, Schedler told the woman, then his executive office manager, after she requested five minutes of his time: "No I demand much more including lunch and dinner." A few months later, in February 2016, Schedler referred to the woman as a "hot gal" in response to a note she sent him about office parking.
Schedler at one point wrote a message to the woman saying he loved her and was always hoping "you would love me back!"