NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - An attorney representing former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson responded to a scathing audit that raised questions about whether Edmonson broke the law. Edmonson stepped down last March after a series of Lee Zurik investigations exposed questionable State Police travel.
Those Fox 8 investigations helped launch probes by State Police Internal Affairs, the Division of Administration and the Legislative Auditor into Edmonson.
Our reporting uncovered taxpayers foot the bill for a nearly $70,000 trip to San Diego back in October 2016, all while the state was dealing with a budget crisis.State Police sent 17 people to a 4-day conference in California. But, on the way four of those employees took a 350 mile detour in a State Police vehicle making a stop at a resort town in Grand Canyon National Park and even stayed another night in Las Vegas.
While one stretch of the drive only took 4 hours, three of the state troopers billed taxpayers for a 12-hour workday. That road trip cost taxpayers $19,000. But, our investigation revealed if they had booked plane tickets and a rental car it would have only cost you $5,000.
Since that investigation aired, Edmonson stepped down and was at the center of a state audit. It was released back in December and claimed Edmonson received free meals from the State Police cafeteria, used troopers as personal chauffeurs for his family and let his friends and family stay for free in hotel rooms meant for troopers during Mardi Gras.
Edmonson's lawyer, Harry Rosenberg, hasn't responded to those accusations. But, in a two page letter released Wednesday by the State Legislative Auditor's Office, he did address overtime for troopers on out of state travel. Rosenberg wrote Edmonson didn't approve the overtime and requested an investigation. But,our investigation last February revealed a document that shows Edmonson may have signed off on at least one expense report for that side trip on the way to the San Diego conference. Edmonson has claimed his secretary used a signature stamp on that report and he denied knowing about it.
"He may have some criminal liability in this theoretically and I think to have an attorney in as soon as possible benefits him," said Fox 8 Legal Analyst, Joe Raspanti.
In his letter to the State Legislative Auditor, Rosenberg claims his client did not have time to fully respond to the list of findings because the audit was leaked early. But, he did address Edmonson's use of a house on State Police grounds. Rosenberg says the auditor's office should have correspondence from former Governor Jindal's Chief of Staff asking Edmonson to live on site. The letter also referenced that Governor Edwards said publicly he expected Edmonson to live at the residence and be available at all times.
However, the Legislative Auditor's Office says it was not able to find any contract or rule allowing Edmonson to live there. Wednesday afternoon, the auditor's spokesman also told Fox 8 they hadn't received any correspondence from Jindal's Chief of Staff.
We reached out to Rosenberg Wednesday about their response to the Legislative Auditor, but he had no comment.