Ex-state police leader refuses blow-by-blow audit response
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Rather than release a blow-by-blow defense against accusations he misspent state tax dollars and may have violated state law, Louisiana’s ex-state police leader is saying he had too little time and too few resources to rebut each allegation in a scathing legislative audit.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office on Wednesday released the two-page letter sent by a lawyer for retired Superintendent Mike Edmonson in response to an audit that accused Edmonson of living a lavish lifestyle financed by state police money.
Attorney Harry Rosenberg wrote that Edmonson “does not have the type of resources to respond” to the lengthy list of claims — and didn’t have enough time because a draft report was leaked early.
“Regrettably, Col. Edmonson was unable to engage in a meaningful preliminary conference with you due to the premature release of the ‘draft’ audit. Such a normal protocol would have allowed Col. Edmonson to respond to more of the auditor’s initial commentary,” Rosenberg wrote to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.
The auditor’s office replied that it scheduled a meeting with Edmonson on Nov. 29, to give him the draft audit and walk through its findings, but Edmonson canceled so a copy was emailed to him instead. A few days later, The Advocate newspaper published information from the report.
The audit was publicly released Dec. 14.
Though Edmonson’s letter sidestepped many audit findings, Rosenberg did defend Edmonson moving his family into a residence on the state police compound. He noted that Gov. John Bel Edwards and former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff said they asked Edmonson to live onsite to quickly respond around-the-clock to emergencies.
Auditors say Edmonson moved into the house with no explicit policy allowing the decision and without paying rent, utilities or taxes on the benefit.
“Authorization has no bearing on the taxability issue,” Purpera’s office wrote in an audit addendum.
Rosenberg repeated Edmonson’s claim that he didn’t know troopers billed thousands of dollars for overtime and expenses on a 2016 trip to a law enforcement conference in San Diego, during which they took sightseeing trips to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
Edmonson retired in March amid widespread criticism about the trip and other spending questions. The state police said its internal review found Edmonson knew about the excursions and deleted text messages during the investigation. Purpera’s office backed up much of the state police review.
Rosenberg’s letter touts Edmonson’s performance in office over his 36 years with the state police and nine years as superintendent.
“Crisscrossing the state, he has been the consistent calming presence through numerous unfortunate crises that our state has experienced,” Rosenberg wrote. “During his four-decade career with the State Police, he worked tirelessly with the respective local law enforcement agencies, as Louisiana residents frequently expressed and observed first-hand.”
Auditors say Edmonson used troopers and state vehicles to run personal errands for him and his family, and to perform maintenance on family members’ vehicles. The report says Edmonson and put family and friends in New Orleans hotel rooms planned for troopers assisting with Mardi Gras safety duties.
Edmonson’s successor Col. Kevin Reeves said he’s tweaked spending policies in response to the audit, and he demoted two high-ranking troopers because of the San Diego trip. The state police also said it’s working with the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI to review Edmonson’s activities.
Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte