BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – One of Louisiana’s most powerful men is stepping down from his post.
Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana State Police – his agency embroiled in a luxury travel and overtime scandal – will announce his retirement Wednesday, sources say.
Edmonson started his State Police career more than 35 years ago – serving multiple years as the Troop A public information officer – making frequent appearances on television during times of emergency.
A graduate of LSU, he had the dream job of any Tiger fan for 26 years – travelling with and protecting the LSU football coach from Coach Stovall to Coach Miles.
Then, in 2008, the election of Republican Bobby Jindal as governor meant big news for Mike Edmonson.
“Reporter: A familiar face for State Police will now be its leader. Jindal appointed Mike Edmonson to be the new State Police commander.”
Right away, Edmonson worked hard to bring together law enforcement from around the state – saying they all needed to work more closely together – to achieve better results. Likely coming from his years as a spokesman for the department, the colonel offered a soothing voice during countless hurricanes and police emergencies around the state.
“I have a very large crime scene here – multiple locations – multiple weapons,” Edmonson said.
Widely liked by the public, Edmonson recently considered a run for lieutenant governor but changed his mind. But in 2014, Edmonson made negative headlines for what many saw as an attempt at a secret backdoor deal to increase his own retirement. The amendment was tacked on to an unrelated bill on the last day of a legislative session. When the secret got out – facing widespread criticism – Edmonson said he would decline the increased retirement.
The colonel is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the governor. Traditionally, the election of a new governor, especially one from a different political party – meant the naming of a new colonel. However, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, decided to keep the popular Edmonson at the top post.
Then came the scandal that would bring an end to the Edmonson era. It came to light last month that State Police sent 17 people to a four-day police conference in San Diego last year. Investigative reporter Lee Zurik exposed that four state troopers did not go directly to California. They took a detour. While driving a State Police vehicle, they stopped overnight in Las Vegas. Some of those troopers turned in expense reports containing what’s believed to be falsified overtime hours for that trip.
Is that theft though?
“I’m embarrassed by it. I don’t think it’s right at all. I don’t know that it’s theft, Lee (Zurik),” Edmonson replied.
Let me ask you this – if you’re driving from northern Arizona to Vegas – it’s a four-hour drive – and you put down on your time sheet that you worked 12 to 14 hours that day – what is that then?
“It’s appalling. It’s embarrassing,” Edmonson answered.
The colonel first denied having any knowledge of the questionable overtime hours. But then, it was uncovered that he had signed off on one of the reports. Edmonson said his assistant, believing the expenses were legitimate, had used a rubber stamp to put Edmonson’s name on the expense report.
US Sen. John Kennedy had heard enough and called for the colonel’s head.
“I like the superintendent,” Kennedy said. “But he has demonstrated that he is the tallest hog at the trough. And this is taxpayer money.”
“The leadership over there needs to change. It’s an embarrassment. They ought to hide their heads in a bag,” Kennedy added.