A harsh legislative audit report on actions by former State Police Supt. Mike Edmonson had everyone from state lawmakers to legal experts reacting.
Among other things, the voluminous report said auditors found a misuse of State Police personnel and assets, and that some engaged in expensive and improper travel to California, a trip first exposed in a series of Lee Zurik investigative reports.
A local criminal attorney believes the scathing accusations leave Edmonson with legal exposure.
"Certainly not a good day for him. I mean, he's got some problems if these allegations are true. There's certainly tax implications, lots of excess income that he had that he clearly hasn't paid taxes on, and it's also potentially fraud," said criminal defense attorney Robert Hjortsberg.
The auditors also found that:
- Edmonson improperly moved his family to a state-owned, State Police compound complex, and for him it was free of rent, utilities and taxes
- A state inmate was assigned to cook and clean for Edmonson and his family and walk the family dog
- State police employees repaired Edmonson’s family vehicles
- Edmonson used New Orleans hotel rooms set aside for state troopers assisting the local police with Mardi Gras security to instead lodge his family and friends for free
Edmonson wrote a letter to Legislative Auditor dated Dec. 13, 2017, which speaks of what he said were leaks of the draft audit report to the news media.
The letter reads in part:
"For inexplicable reasons, the confidential draft report regarding me and the Louisiana State Police was leaked to the media and the contents of the draft then was disseminated to media outlets throughout the State - all before I could respond to the various contentions.
"Realizing the inherent unfairness to me, the residents of our State, as well as respect for the normal procedures, I trust your office has begun an investigation into this improper conduct and will soon report your findings.
"Due to the scope of the draft report, I requested (you and I discussed in a previous meeting that I would probably need additional time and you saw no problem in granting such) and you agreed to grant my request to present my response within a determined period.
"Therefore, I will deliver to you my submission by January 15, 2018; that response will address, among other issues, approval by the Governor's Office for my housing when I was selected to serve as Colonel of the Louisiana State Police in 2008."
Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statement on the audit report Thursday afternoon:
"I have welcomed this investigation from the beginning and instructed the Louisiana State Police to fully cooperate. The Legislative Auditor's report uncovered some troubling findings and serious problems with past abuses of power from its previous leader who left his post in March. I believe that public servants must always hold themselves to the highest ethical standards. That being said, our men and women of the State Police are honorable public servants who do a tremendous job protecting the citizens of Louisiana, often under very dangerous circumstances. Through the leadership of Col. Kevin Reeves, who took the helm of this department in March of this year, the department has already taken significant steps to restore public trust and accountability. Col. Reeves is one of the finest individuals I've had the pleasure of working with, and I am confident that he is already leading the State Police in a new, positive direction."
"This is absurd. I'm embarrassed for the State Police. We've got a lot of really great troopers," said U.S. Senator John Kennedy, who wrote a letter to the Secretary of the La. Department of Revenue requesting that she collect taxes from Edmonson for freebies that came at taxpayers' expense.
"The state officials and the federal IRS talk all the time, and what Secretary Robinson needs to do is send Col. Edmonson an assessment of the amount of taxes he owes. If he doesn't pay them, she needs to seize assets and she needs to contact the IRS," said Kennedy.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's press secretary issued a statement on the hotel room use matter brought up in the audit report:
"The City of New Orleans has an agreement with the Louisiana State Police to cover the costs of their hotel rooms as they assist with public safety efforts during Mardi Gras. The NOPD works with local hotels to obtain the rooms and make payments, but the State Police is responsible for assigning the rooms to personnel. The NOPD has no involvement in that process.
This abuse of our agreement is concerning, and now that the Legislative Auditor's report is finalized, we will work with our City Attorney and the State Police to determine the appropriate course of action moving forward."
At the State Capitol Thursday afternoon, current State Police Supt. Kevin Reeves said he has tightened spending policies and more.
He was asked about his own living arrangements.
"Presently, I stay in the housing during the week when I'm in town working on the compound, but I do not by any means live in the house. It is a place for me to stay, lay my head while I'm here," said Reeves.
And about the Mardi Gras Hotel room policy he said, "Some of the things we can do is do a better tracking of what troopers are assigned to what rooms and keep those records for historical purposes."
The audit findings were sent to the state attorney general.
"The attorney general's office is one person that's looking at it that we know of, and we don't know if the feds are looking at it or not. They're certainly not going to tell you if they're engaged in an investigation at this point," said Hjortsberg.