NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - U.S. Senator John Kennedy says the superintendent of State Police needs to resign. The former state treasurer says he doubts the investigations into State Police will be a serious one.
This follows our investigation that detailed a pricey conference trip that included a stay in the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas for four troopers.
"I like the superintendent," Kennedy tells FOX 8. "But he has demonstrated that he is intent on being the tallest hog at the trough. And this is all taxpayer money."
Edmonson brought 17 state employees to San Diego - and some of them brought their spouses or girlfriends. The trip included a conference and an awards ceremony where the International Chiefs of Police gave Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson a lifetime achievement award. When you calculate salaries, overtime, hotel, flights and meals, the trip cost taxpayers about $70,000.
"He took 17 of his top people and said, y'all come at taxpayers' expense to San Diego to watch me get an award," Kennedy says, "and listen, let's go spend $70,000 on a nice little vacation here, when the state's running deficits. But this wasn't a conference to learn something. This was 17 of his friends from State Police, all of whom, the big muckety-mucks making the hundred grand a year-plus, who went out there and had a little vacation to watch him get an award."
Kennedy says the cost of the trip alone should make the State Police superintendent resign.
"I'm offended by it as a taxpayer," he tells us. "I'm offended by it when they come to Washington and ask me to get them more federal taxpayer money... The leadership over there needs to change. It's an embarrassment. They all ought to hide their heads in a bag."
Kennedy says Edmonson has a history of questionable decisions. Two and a half years ago, the legislature passed a last-minute bill that would have increased Edmonson's retirement.
"By one report it was going to boost his retirement by $55,000," Kennedy recalls. "His retirement wasn't going to be not be $55,000, it was going to be increased by $55,000. And he did it and he passed it at the last minute and they did it in a smoke-filled room. And nobody knew about except the governor's office."
Edmonson's retirement bill ended up getting voided. For last year's San Diego conference, four troopers and one spouse drove to San Diego in a State Police Ford Expedition. They stopped for a night in Grand Canyon National Park and Las Vegas, billing significant overtime along the way.
A signature on expense report documentation shows Edmonson signed off on some of the Vegas and Grand Canyon expenses. But Edmonson told us, while that's his signature, he didn't sign off on it: His assistant approved the expenses and stamped his signature.
"On that one, you know, he's either being dishonest or he's being incompetent," the senator says. "I don't mean any disrespect. But if he is supposed to review them and he didn't, he let his secretary just stamp it... That's inexcusable. And on the other hand, he did review them and okayed it, that's ... Inexcusable too."
Kennedy wants an independent agency, the legislative auditor, to investigate. He thinks the investigations by the governor and State Police aren't independent enough.
And while he wants the superintendent to resign, in the end he expects nothing to happen.
"Probably, nothing will happen to him," Kennedy says. "He's part of a club down there in Baton Rouge. You see him at every get-together. He does a lot of favors for a lot of legislators. He's one of the good ole boys. But this is just disgusting. And if John Bel [Edwards] is serious about being a reform governor, he will ask for the superintendent's resignation."
FOX 8 asked Edmonson about Kennedy's comments late Friday. He told us, while he respects Sen. Kennedy, he'll await the facts before coming to any conclusions. You can hear his comments in the video attached to this report.