Mike Edmonson, the longtime former State Police superintendent, told the state Legislative Auditor's Office this week that he expects it to investigate the leak of a scathing draft report that accused him of accepting an array of handouts and a host of other improprieties during his nine years at the agency's helm.
Edmonson, who retired amid scandal in March, said he intends to respond to the allegations by Jan. 15.
In the meantime, he wants an accounting of what he described as a "breach of normal practices," in which The Advocate obtained a copy of the draft audit before he had the opportunity to respond.
As Louisiana's longest-tenured State Police superintendent, Mike Edmonson created a life of luxury for his family at taxpayers' expense, order…
"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," Edmonson wrote in a letter to the auditors dated Wednesday.
"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."
Edmonson, who has declined multiple requests to comment on the draft audit, expressed confidence that residents would not "prematurely reach conclusions until all of the facts are presented."
"That is the way the process works," he added. "That is the only impartial and objective approach, and I strongly believe that is what our fellow citizens expect."
The Legislative Auditor's Office released its final findings on Edmonson's tenure Thursday afternoon. The report is largely unchanged from the draft but includes a response from the State Police concurring with the auditors' findings.
Roger W. Harris, the assistant legislative auditor, told a panel of lawmakers that he was confident the draft report had not been leaked by his office. He cited a WWL-TV report that showed a copy of the draft that had been addressed to Edmonson.
"We have a long history of doing this," Harris told the Legislative Audit Advisory Council. "We deal with these reports all the time, and we're really good at keeping things confidential."
In the explosive report, auditors highlighted a number of freebies Edmonson received during his time as superintendent, including free hotel rooms in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, chauffeuring services for his family provided by troopers under his command, free dry-cleaning services for his wife at the Governor's Mansion and even dog-walking services provided by state prisoners.
He also is accused of misusing a state credit card to buy thousands of dollars in unauthorized meals.
The auditors said Edmonson also may have broken the law by moving his family into the State Police compound without legal authority, adding he did not pay taxes on a benefit that should have been included on his W-2 form. Edmonson said in his brief letter to the auditors this week that his living arrangements had been approved by the Governor's Office when he moved into the so-called Residential Conference Center in 2008.
Former Gov. Bobby Jindal's then-chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, wrote in a letter to The Advocate that he had approved the arrangement. But Harris, in his testimony at the Capitol on Thursday, questioned Teepell's authority to green-light Edmonson's accommodations.
"I'm not really sure that falls within the ambit of what a chief of staff can actually do," Harris said.
The legislative audit comes on the heels of an internal State Police investigation that included potentially criminal allegations against Edmonson, including a claim that he deleted text messages on the eve of his retirement as the State Police were investigating four troopers who charged taxpayers for overtime and expensive stays at the Grand Canyon and a Las Vegas casino resort as they drove to a conference in California.
Gov. John Bel Edwards released a statement Thursday saying the audit "uncovered some troubling findings and serious problems with past abuses of power."
"I believe that public servants must always hold themselves to the highest ethical standards," Edwards said. "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."
Edmonson's successor, Col. Kevin Reeves, said the agency already has made "appropriate changes to policies and procedures" based on the legislative audit. For some of the allegations, Reeves said, the agency has rules on the book he expects to be followed.
"We have been able to determine that, in many instances, we have adequate policies in place," Reeves wrote in a response to the Legislative Auditor's Office, "and the expectation of this administration is compliance to those policies by our employees regardless of position or rank."
Reeves sought to allay the concerns of several lawmakers, telling the Legislative Audit Advisory Council on Thursday that he has been working to change the often cliquish culture that existed under his predecessor.
The audit accused Edmonson of providing favorable treatment to a select group of troopers, including free hotel-style rooms at the agency's Training Academy in Baton Rouge.
"My inner circle is every State Police trooper that wears this uniform and this badge," Reeves told the panel of lawmakers. "They all deserve equal representation from the top down."
A number of the lawmakers expressed concern about the auditors' findings, including Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, who likened the State Police under Edmonson to "a kingdom with a king."
"Any person can violate the rules at anytime," said Sen. W. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria. "And there’s really nothing you can do about it until you catch them."
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