(Reuters) – Louisiana’s chief election official, Secretary of State Tom Schedler, resigned on Tuesday in the face of what he called “an incredibly serious allegation” that he had sexually harassed a female employee.
Schedler became the latest in a wave of dozens of businessmen, politicians and entertainers to lose their posts amid accusations of sexual harassment in what has become known over the last year as the social media #MeToo movement.
The accuser, Dawn Ross, said in her lawsuit filed in a Louisiana district court in February that Schedler began making inappropriate comments to her soon after he joined the department in 2007.
Schedler, a Republican, had previously denied harassing the woman, saying he had only a consensual relationship with her.
“I have been incredibly frustrated with the tabloid approach to an incredibly serious allegation and the necessity of following the advice of counsel to not try this publicly,” Schedler said in his resignation letter. He said that he would trust the legal process to “fairly consider all the facts.”
Ross said Schedler, who lived in the same residential complex as she did, would observe her movements and comment on them the next day. He also propositioned her at work for a decade in the face of her rejections, and even surveilled a man she was dating.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, had called on Schedler to resign in February.
“In light of the additional information that has been disclosed, I believe this is the best course of action for Tom, his family, and the state of Louisiana,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. Local news outlets have published emails obtained from Schedler’s work account in recent days in which he makes sexual overtures to Ross.
Ross’s lawyer, Jill Craft, said Ross was never in a consensual relationship with Schedler.
“When we have elected officials who represent us they need to be held to at least the same standard as those in private industry, if not to a higher standard,” Craft said in a telephone interview.
Schedler’s last day will be May 8, and his replacement will be found through a special election.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York