The Louisiana Secretary of State’s office has admitted using $90,000 in state funds, originally allocated for computer system upgrades, to partially pay for a sexual harassment settlement for former Secretary of State Tom Schedler.
$90,000 diverted to bail out Tom Schedler
Republican Tom Schedler resigned as Louisiana Secretary of State in May 2018 after months of allegations that he had sexually harassed his former secretary. Schedler allegedly sent her love letters, sex tapes, and then lashed out when she refused his advances.
To avoid a trial, the state settled with Schedler’s accuser for a $167,500 payment. $35,000 in legal fees were also incurred in the process. Schedler himself footed only $18,425 of the total cost, leaving his former employer to pick up the rest of the tab.
On Friday, Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press uncovered how exactly the Louisiana authorities had paid for roughly half of Schedler’s costs. They diverted $90,000 from another budget item.
“We deferred maintenance to software on non-critical systems, meaning things that don’t impact the public, for one year,” Secretary of State’s office spokesperson Patrick said. “All the applications will still run. No services will be impacted, nothing that will affect the security of elections.”
Patrick also emphasized that the diversion of funds did not “cut anything to do with cybersecurity,” which has been identified as a priority.
According to the AP coverage the $90,000 was “self-generated” by the Secretary of State’s office from the fees it charges the public. Diverting this money from its current allocation meant the Secretary of State did not need authority from the state legislature for additional funds.
Public money for private mistakes
The payout by the State of Louisiana to protect Tom Schedler is just one of many recent incidents of public money being used to payoff sexual harassment claims. In April, Texas congressman Blake Farenthold resigned after failing to repay taxpayers the $84,000 used to settle a claim against him.
On Thursday, partly in response to the Farenthold case, Congress passed a bipartisan bill ending the practice of using public money to settle sexual harassment claims. In future, Congressmen will be personally liable for all payments, with no upper limit. The bill overhauls the previous 1995 legislation, widely seen as inadequate. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.
Despite the coming reform at the federal level, rules at the state level remain inconsistent.