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Louisiana State Police Supt. Col. Mike Edmonson speaks during an interview Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at LSP headquarters. 

ADVOCATE FILE PHOTO BY TRAVIS SPRADLING

As a media spokesman for Louisiana State Police who eventually rose to lead the agency, Mike Edmonson was for many years the most visible face of the most prestigious law enforcement institution in Louisiana.

Now Edmonson, who retired in March under a cloud of scandal, stands accused of living lavishly on the taxpayer dime and even destroying public records to cover his involvement in the misuse of tax dollars.

Scathing audit finds Edmonson used LSP role for personal gain, free rent, dog walks, more

The accusations, resulting from a draft report from state auditors and a separate internal review by the LSP, suggest a huge breach of public trust.

Edmonson deserves his day in court if these accusations lead to a criminal prosecution, which would be the best way to give the public a full airing of what went wrong at LSP and who’s to blame. That would strike a blow for the kind of transparency that’s sorely needed at an agency where, as in many government scandals, the cover-up could end up being the worst misdeed of all.

Edmonson retired under fire in March amid revelations of side trips that state troopers took as they drove to a professional conference in California, billing taxpayers along the way. Edmonson claimed he was in the dark about the side trips after they were made public, but LSP investigators concluded it was “obvious” the superintendent knew of the scam all along, later directing the erasure of smartphone messages he sent to the traveling troopers during their excursion.

For anyone to destroy evidence related to an investigation is terrible. That a top law enforcement officer is accused of doing such a thing is even more grievous.

These recovered text messages catch Mike Edmonson chatting with Louisiana troopers during Las Vegas 'side trip'

Meanwhile, allegations of wrongdoing against Edmonson continue to mount. A draft report from the Legislative Auditor’s Office chronicles a pattern of profligate behavior funded by public dollars. Among many other things, Edmonson stands accused of assigning state troopers to chauffeur his wife and run personal errands, using New Orleans hotel rooms meant for troopers to accommodate friends and family, and improperly using state credit cards.

The role of Louisiana State Police in fighting crime across the state underscores the need for the highest standards of integrity. That’s why any wrongdoing at the agency should be swiftly prosecuted.

Edmonson, one of the most high-profile public servants in Louisiana’s recent history, is now poised to get the biggest spotlight of all. How tragic that it’s for all the wrong reasons.