|John Thomas "Tom" Schedler|
Louisiana Secretary of State
November 22, 2010 – May 8, 2018
|Preceded by||Jay Dardenne|
|Succeeded by||Kyle Ardoin|
Louisiana State Senator
for District 11 (St. Tammany
and Tangipahoa parishes)
|Preceded by||Gerry Earl Hinton|
|Succeeded by||Jack Donahue|
Member of the Slidell City Council
|Succeeded by||Michael J. Molbert|
|Born|| January 24, 1950|
|Spouse(s)||Estranged from Stephanie Gele Schedler|
|Children|| Michelle, Rachel, and Jessica (last names unavailable)|
|Residence||Mandeville, St. Tammany Parish|
|Alma mater|| De La Salle High School (New Orleans)|
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
|Occupation|| Businessman; politician|
United States Navy Reserve officer
John Thomas Schedler, known as Tom Schedler (born January 24, 1950), is the former secretary of state of his native Louisiana. A Republican, Schedler announced his resignation in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. He vacated his office on May 8, 2018; a special election will be held on November 6, to choose Schedler's successor for the term ending in January 2020.
Meanwhile, Kyle Ardoin, the first assistant secretary of state, assumed the duties of the office for the interim period. Ardoin then won a special election to finish Schedler's term as secretary of state..
From 1996 to 2008, Schedler was the District 11 state senator for St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes in southeastern Louisiana. Term-limited affer twelve years in the Senate, he was named chief deputy to the Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, a former Senate colleague from Baton Rouge. When Dardenne won a special election for lieutenant governor in 2010, Schedler became the secretary of state. On October 22, 2011, Schedler won a full term as secretary by narrowly defeating the outgoing state House Speaker James Wilton "Jim" Tucker of New Orleans, 449,370 votes (50.5 percent) to 440,872 (49.5 percent). He won only twenty-six of the sixty-four parishes in the race against Tucker, and his margin of victory was attributed to his own St. Tammany Parish.
A New Orleans native, Schedler graduated in 1967 from De La Salle High School; in 1999, he was honored as one of the school's 125 outstanding graduates over the first half-century of the institution. In 1971, Schedler received his Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, then known as the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He served in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 1971 to 1976 and the Louisiana National Guard. His business concerns have been in the fields of banking, real estate, and health-care management. In the middle 1990s, he was a hospital foundation director in St. Tammany Parish.
A former member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee, Schedler was a George W. Bush-committed delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was also chairman of the State Senate Republican delegation.
From 1984 to 1990, Schedler was chairman of the Slidell Board of Zoning and Adjustment. In 1995, he was the president of the St. Tammany Municipal Association. From 1990 to 1996, Schedler served on the Slidell City Council, having been vice president and then president of the body. In 1990, at the age of forty, he was named "Slidell Citizen of the Year". In 1991, he graduated from the civic program "Leadership Louisiana", sponsored by the interest group Council for a Better Louisiana. Schedler is a former president of Slidell Rotary International, having also been a Paul P. Harris Fellow, an honor named for the founder of the organization. He has been affiliated with the Slidell Chamber of Commerce and the Lions International. He is married to the former Stephanie Gele (born March 3, 1950) of Mandeville, who has been an administrator of hospice programs in the Greater New Orleans area. The Schedlers have three grown daughters, Michelle, Rachel, and Jessica, and three granddaughters. He is Roman Catholic.
In addition to St. Tammany Parish, Schedler's senatorial district included neighboring Tangipahoa Parish. Schedler served on the Health and Welfare, Judiciary C, Retirement, and Local and municipal Affairs committees. He is a former chairman of the Legislative Audit Advisory Council and the Louisiana Commission on Mental Health. He was also among the members of the select committee which handled legislative oversight of the Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission.
In 1999, Schedler was twice named "Legislator of the Month" by the Louisiana Municipal Association and received the Outstanding Legislator Award from the Victims and Citizens Against Crime. He was named "Legislator of the Year" by both the Louisiana Hospital Association and the Metro Hospital Council of New Orleans. He also received the Fred Henderson Memorial Award from the Louisiana Chapter of the National Association of Mental Illness. In 2000, the Alliance for Good Government, the President's Committee on Mental Retardation, the Louisiana Hospital Association, and the Louisiana Association for Mental Health named him "Legislator of the Year". In 2001, Schedler received the Franklin Smith Award from the Association for Retarded Citizens of Louisiana for his work with children with mental disabilities.
In 2002, Schedler was named "Legislator of the Year" by the Rural Hospital Coalition and the Louisiana. School Counselor Association. He was also honored by the Rural Health Association and, again, the Louisiana Municipal Association. In 2003, he was named "Legislator of the Year" by the Black Bag Medical Society for his work in health care policy and workforce issues
Schedler and then state Representative and later U.S. Senator, David Vitter, co-authored the repeal in July 2004 of the Louisiana inheritance tax, He authored or co-authored legislation in the areas of tort reform, ethics, and health care. In 1997 and 2000, he attempted to call a state constitutional convention to address the Louisiana tax code. He wrote legislation that generated approximately $1 billion of additional Medicaid funds for the elderly and disabled, all of which were placed in trust. After thirteen failed attempts, he obtained passge of the Preferred Drug Bill, estimated to save Medicaid $60 to $100 million per year in Louisiana. In 2003, Schedler led the passage of the first major reform bill dealing with the state charity hospital system, which dates to the era of Governor Huey Pierce Long, Jr.
In the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 21, 1995, the late Gerry E. Hinton, a chiropractor and a three-term Republican state senator from Slidell, did not seek reelection. Schedler finished second and entered the Louisiana general election with Pat Brister later the state chairman of the Louisiana GOP. He received 6,122 (16.72 percent) to her 7,691 (21 percent). A third candidate, Republican Alvin D. Singletary (born 1942), Schedler's fellow Slidell city council member, ran third, having trailed Schedler by only seven votes, 6,155 (16.7 percent). Four other Republicans, two Democrats, and an unaffiliated contender, polled the remaining 46 percent of the primary ballots. In the second balloting on November 18, Schedler won 23,354 votes (56.6 percent) to Brister's 17,876 (43.4 percent). Schedler was unopposed in the 1999 primary. On October 4, 2003, he convincingly defeated another fellow Republican, Bruce S. Authement of Covington, 22,366 votes (65.2 percent) to 11,920 (34.8 percent).
Schedler held the District F seat on the Slidell City Council from June 1990 to January 1996. On March 26, 1994, he was reelected to the city council in a primary contest with fellow Republican Mark D. Fridge (born 1957), 632 to 476. He resigned from the council in 1995 to become state senator. In a runoff election on April 20, 1996, Michael J. Molbert (born 1945), with 552 votes (52 percent) defeated Mark Fridge, who polled 509 ballots (48 percent) to finish Schedler's second city council term.
As his successor in the state Senate, Schedler endorsed a fellow Republican, Jack Donahue, Jr., a Mandeville contractor who easily won the Senate seat in the 2007 primary election over the term-limited conservative Republican state Representative Matthew Peter "Pete" Schneider, III, of Slidell.
In June 2009, Schedler was listed as one of the directors of a national presidential fund-raising effort promoting then Governor Bobby Jindal. According to the campaign treasurer, Dan Kyle, the former Louisiana legislative auditor, the group hoped to raise $60 million to persuade Jindal to seek the 2012 Republican nomination eventually won by Mitt Romney, a Moderate Republican from Massachusetts and now Utah. Others on the committee werer former State Representative Woody Jenkins and U.S. Representative Steve Scalise. Schedler had his name removed from the group, not because he opposes Jindal but because such fund-raising activity may have conflicted with his role as Dardenne's deputy.
Schedler said that it was difficult to raise funds for the 2011 secretary of state race against Jim Tucker because the mostly technical position is "one that's particularly difficult to get people excited about."
In his bid for a second full term as secretary of state in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 24, 2015, Schedler defeated Chris Tyson, an African-American Democrat from Baton Rouge, 649,153 (62.2 percent) to 394,153 (37.8 percent).
Election integrity issue
In July 2017, Secretary Schedler cited "privacy" concerns (Social Security numbers, dates of birth, mother's maiden names, and party registrations, the latter of which constitute public information) for his refusal to turn over Louisiana voter registration information to U.S. President Donald Trump's commission investigating potential fraud in the 2016 presidential election. Schedler called the request politically motivated and a “federal intrusion and overreach.”
Jeffrey Dennis Sadow, a conservative who is an associate political science professor at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, questions why Schedler maintains faith in the integrity of elections held outside his state because Schedler's role as chief election officer applies only in Louisiana. Sadow suggested that Schedler considers any challenge to election integrity, no matter how potentially valid, as ultimately a loss of faith in elections officials. He urged Schedler to cooperate with the federal voter integrity probe, which was since cancelled, because "ensuring untainted elections is too important to politicize." However, Trump shut down the elections integrity unit after so many secretaries of state across the nation refused to cooperate.
In July 2016, Schedler rebuked comments made by Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, a fellow Republican whose father was a former state Republican chairman, regarding allegations of abuse of early voting procedures in Louisiana. Schedler called Nungesser
at a minimum uninformed. [He] quite possibly [made] an insult to not only my office, but also our hard-working clerks of court and registrars of voters who are our trusted partners for every election. Lieutenant Governor Nungesser implied that voters can show up by the busload at any early voting site, even if they are not registered, sign a sheet of paper and have their vote count. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth, and in practice, his claim is impossible to execute. ... If [the person is] not a registered voter, the process for voting on a machine does not move forward. Louisiana does allow for provisional voting in federal elections, which allows voters to cast a conditional paper ballot if questions arise as to their eligibility. But make no mistake, by law, these votes are not counted until the voter is proven to be eligible, not before."
Nungesser said that his comments were taken out of context because he was referring to a local election in Plaquemines Parish in 2005. He said that he admires how Schedler handled the administrative duties of the secretary of state.
Sexual harassment suit prompts resignation
In 2018, Schedler was named the defendant in sexual harassment lawsuit filed by an unidentified employee still working in the office of the secretary of state. In response to the suit, Schedler, who has long been estranged from his wife, said that the relationship with the woman was consensual. However, the woman's attorney, Jill Craft, claims that the relationship was not consensual and began as early as 2007, before Schedler was the secretary of state and still a deputy to Jay Dardenne. The suit alleges that Schedler bought a townhouse in the complex where the woman lives and spied on her and that he obtained her cell phone to look through her contacts, including a boyfriend. In 2014, the harassment expanded to text, email messages, and cards "that became more sexual" in theme, according to the suit. He allegedly addressed her as "My dearest sunshine." The suit also claims that Schedler showed the woman pornography.
The sexual harassment suit prompted Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards and Republican state Senator Sharon Woodall Hewitt, who represents St. Tammany Parish, to call for Schedler's resignation. Hewitt said: "Sadly, I have reached the conclusion that Secretary Schedler can no longer be an effective leader or role model for our state. In the coming days, I hope that he too will reach the same conclusion and consider stepping down." Schedler said that while he would not resign, he will not seek a third full term as secretary of state in the 2019 state elections. He indicated that an immediate resignation would be "cowardly" and noted that his office must prepare for the 2018 national election as well as ongoing special or local elections.
When sexually suggestive emails and messages in the Schedler case emerged on April 24, 2018, Republican Senator John Neely Kennedy renewed his call that the secretary of state resign his office immediately.
The woman accusing Schedler was identified on April 27, 2018, as Dawn Ross, a decade-long former employee of the secretary of state's office. In an interview with The Baton Rouge Advocate, Ross described her time in Schedler's employment as a "nightmare". She termed Schedler a "creep" and added that she felt like "a prisoner in a cave" for the past decade. Ross said that she never had any sexual interest in Schedler and had repeatedly told him to remove himself from her private life. Ross said that she was dismayed when Schedler publicly claimed "a consensual sexual relationship" with her.
With Senator Kennedy's call that he step down, Schedler announced he will vacate his office after more than seven and a half years of service. Schedler said that he is leaving his office with "a heavy heart knowing I have disappointed the people in my life who care for me the most. But I have also experienced from them the miraculous power of forgiveness and grace during the twilight of my career, and for that I am grateful."
Ultimately, the harassment case was settled with the payment of $149,075 by the state and $18,425 underwritten personally by Schedler. Lawyers representing both the state and Schedler recently filed a joint motion to dismiss the case because of the "amicable" settlement.
Meanwhile, Schedler will receive for the rest of his life a total state pension of $107,146.20 in twelve monthly payments.
Schedler is seeking reimbursement for his costs. The state ultimately paid more than $180,000 on the case, including attorneys fees. Dawn Ross received $167,500, including $18,425 that Schedler personally paid. In a suit filed in February 2019, Schedler argues that the state failed to represent him in the original case as an individual with a defense as required to by law. Schedler asks reimbursement of attorneys fees and costs of $14,308. He is also requesting reimbursement for the funds he paid in the original case, according to the suit.
Special election, 2018
In conjunction with congressional elections on November 6, 2018, a special election was held to choose a successor to Schedler to serve the remainder of the term through January 2020. Republican interim Secretary Robert Kyle Ardoin (born July 31, 1967) won a runoff contest against an African-American Democratic woman, Gwen Collins-Greenup. Others who sought to succeed Schedler were sitting state Representatives Julie Stokes of Kenner in Jefferson Parish, the first to announce; Rick Edmonds, a Baptist clergyman from Baton Rouge who has vowed to act as a "watchdog" to guarantee election integrity. Almond Gaston Crowe, Jr., who served in both houses of the legislature from St. Tammany Parish prior to 2016, was still another Republican candidate. Two Republican state senators previously mentioned as potential candidates, Gerald Long of Natchitoches and Michael Arthur "Mike" Walsworth of West Monroe, did not file for the position.
- Louisiana Secretary of State quits amid sexual misconduct claims. Alexandria Town Talk, copied from the Lafayette Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, Louisiana (May 1, 2018).
- Greg Hilburn (May 1, 2018). Schedler quits among sex scandal; see who may run for job. The Monroe News-Star.
- New Orleans Times-Picayune, December 6, 2007.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 22, 2011.
- Senate Diostrict 11, enlou.com (site no longer available), accessed November 4, 2009.
- Biography of Senator John T. "Tom" Schedler". senate.legis.state.la.us. Retrieved on November 4, 2009.
- "Our Campaigns: Candidate David Vitter". ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved on November 7, 2009.
- "Senate Resolution No. 156". legis.state.la.us. Retrieved on November 7, 2009.
- "Estate Taxes by State: Does Louisiana Have an Estate Tax?". wills.about.com. Retrieved on November 7, 2009.
- Louisiana election returns. Louisiana Secretary of State (October 21, 1995). Retrieved on November 4, 2009.
- Louisiana election returns. Louisiana secretary of state (October 4, 2003). Retrieved on November 4, 2009.
- Louisiana election returns. Louisiana Secretary of State (March 26, 1994). Retrieved on November 4, 2009.
- Louisiana election returns. Louisiana Secretary of State (April 20, 1996). Retrieved on November 4, 2009.
- Jack Donahue for Senate. senatorjackdonahue.com. Retrieved on November 5, 2009.
- Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 20, 2007.
- Millhollon Official pulls out of Jindal group. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on November 23, 2009.
- Many La. incumbents get a free pass. 'The Alexandria Town Talk (September 9, 2011). Retrieved on September 11, 2011; no longer on-line.
- Candidates Qualified in Statewide Elections. KEEL (AM). Retrieved on September 11, 2015.
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- Louisiana rejects Trump commission request for voter data. The Alexandria Town Talk, citing story from The Lafayette Daily Advertiser (July 3, 2017). Retrieved on July 5, 2017.
- Jeffrey Dennis Sadow (July 22, 2017). Louisiana officials should avoid 'playing politics' and cooperate with fraud probe. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on July 25, 2017.
- Bonnie Bolden (July 12, 2016). Schedler: Nungesser got it wrong. Monroe News Star. Retrieved on July 13, 2016.
- Greg LaRose (February 22, 2018). Schedler claims consensual relationship with employee suing him for sexual harassment. The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved on March 16, 2018.
- Scottie Hunter (March 14, 2018). Attorney for Schedler's accuser fires back following his decision not to resign immediately. WAFB-TV. Retrieved on March 16, 2018.
- Norman Dotson (February 28, 2018). Governor and other state leadership join together in calling for Schedler's resignation. Brproud.com (Fox 44). Retrieved on March 16, 2018.
- John Kennedy 'saddened' by revelation of Tom Schedler messages, calls for him to resign. The Baton Rouge Advocate (April 27, 2018).
- Jim Mustian (April 27, 2018). Woman suing Tom Schedler describes decade-long 'nightmare' in first interview: 'I had told him to leave me alone'. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on April 28, 2018.
- Robb Hays (October 11, 2018). $167,500 settles Schedler harassment case. Fox News. Retrieved on October 16, 2018.
- Mark Ballard (May 2, 2018). Interim secretary of state says he saw no signs of misconduct; see Tom Schedler's pension pay. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on May 3, 2018.
- Sam Karlin (June 17, 2019). Tom Schedler, ex-Secretary of State, seeks his money back in sexual harassment settlement. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on June 22, 2019.
- Greg Hilburn (July 5, 2018). Secretary of state race: See who's in, who's out. The Monroe News-Star. Retrieved on July 6, 2018.