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Wednesday, November 21, 2018



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Scathing audit of ex-La. State Police leader prompts change

Scathing audit of ex-La. State Police leader prompts change

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana State Police leader Col. Kevin Reeves says spending policies have been reworked in response to a scathing audit publicly released Thursday that found Reeves' predecessor lived a lavish lifestyle financed by misused state tax dollars.

The investigative review by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's accuses retired Col. Mike Edmonson of misspending and inappropriate behavior when he was state police superintendent, suggesting Edmonson may have broken several state laws.

In a response, Reeves said he's tweaked travel policies, reeducated supervisors on the proper use of state police assets and employees and reviewed the issuance of credit cards. The state police has said it also is working with the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI in reviewing Edmonson's activities.

"For many of the recommendations listed in the report, State Police has already implemented appropriate changes," Reeves wrote. "We have been able to determine that in many instances, we have adequate policies in place, and the expectation of this administration is compliance to those policies by our employees regardless of rank."

The lengthy audit — a draft of which was obtained by The Advocate two weeks ago — suggests Edmonson used the Louisiana State Police troopers and equipment for personal gain.

In a letter included with the report, Edmonson criticized the leak of a confidential draft before he could respond to the claims, describing that as "inherent unfairness" and suggesting the auditor's office should be investigating "this improper conduct."

The ex-state police leader said he will respond to the audit by Jan. 15. He said he was "feeling confident the residents of this state will not prematurely reach conclusions until all of the facts are presented."

Among the many claims, auditors say Edmonson improperly moved his family to a home on the state police compound without paying rent, utilities or taxes on the benefit and used New Orleans hotel rooms planned for troopers assisting with Mardi Gras safety duties to instead house family and friends.

The report says Edmonson used troopers and state vehicles to run personal errands for him and his family and perform maintenance on family members' vehicles.

Edmonson had been the state police's longest-serving superintendent, holding the job for nine years before retiring in March, amid questions about lax spending practices and criticism of his leadership. Edmonson had been with the state police for 36 years, appointed superintendent by Republican then-Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2008. Edwards, a Democrat, kept him in the position.

He left after controversy over troopers' billing thousands of dollars to taxpayers 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.

Though Edmonson said he hadn't approved the side trips, a state police review found Edmonson knew about the excursions, was in contact with the troopers throughout the trip and deleted text messages during the investigation.

Reeves demoted two high-ranking troopers for the road trip after the internal investigation. The audit by Purpera's office, which backed up much of the state police's review, found that the agency paid nearly $13,000 more than necessary for the San Diego trip.

Jindal's former chief of staff Timmy Teepell defended Edmonson's living arrangements in a letter released this week to The Advocate, saying the move was aimed at making the state police leader available around the clock to quickly respond to emergencies.

"In my experience, through over a dozen federally declared disasters, four hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, shootings, an oil spill and hostage situations, Mike Edmonson was available, no matter the hour, the day, the time, to courteously and loyally serve the people of Louisiana," Teepell wrote.

Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, meanwhile, called on Louisiana's revenue department to make Edmonson pay back-taxes on the free housing, utilities, cable television, electricity and other "fringe benefits" he received.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte