Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration sought Monday to tamp down widespread speculation that a change in leadership is imminent at the Louisiana State Police, an agency that has been plunged into turmoil in recent weeks amid an FBI investigation of improper political contributions and revelations that four troopers charged taxpayers for a lavish road trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
But there were mounting indications that Col. Mike Edmonson, the longtime State Police superintendent, remained in limbo, and officials said little to suggest he will continue to lead the agency in the long term.
Outside pressure has mounted for Edmonson to step aside following revelations that troopers earned thousands of dollars in overtime last year — and billed expensive hotel rooms to state credit cards — as they drove to a law enforcement conference in San Diego.
Edwards ordered an audit of State Police travel last month after The Advocate reported that the troopers had taken the circuitous route in a state SUV assigned to Edmonson's chief of staff.
The governor's spokesman, Richard Carbo, confirmed that Edwards met with Edmonson on Monday but described the meeting as regularly scheduled. The session was said to be the latest of several private conversations the two have had in recent days in the wake of multiple controversies.
Maj. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman, said Edmonson has maintained his regular schedule.
"Some people may be getting ahead of themselves," Carbo said when asked whether Edwards intends to replace Edmonson. "He has not asked for his resignation."
Federal authorities have ramped up an investigation into the Louisiana State Troopers Associ…
Meanwhile, a Louisiana lawmaker on Monday asked the state legislative auditor to investigate the out-of state travel of State Police leadership, including trips Edmonson has taken during his nine years as superintendent.
"I think it's important to look back at everything that happened under our current superintendent," the lawmaker, state Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, said in an interview.
Speculation mounted over the weekend within the Louisiana law enforcement community that Edmonson's days as head of State Police are numbered, and several law enforcement sources said they expect the superintendent to be replaced in coming days.
Edmonson, in a brief telephone interview Friday, maintained he does not intend to resign, bucking a recent call by U.S. Sen. John Kennedy that he step down.
The agitation for change intensified last week when it emerged that federal authorities had delivered subpoenas to more than a dozen members of the Louisiana State Troopers Association's board of directors, furthering a months-old inquiry into a series of unlawful campaign contributions the nonprofit group made to political candidates in 2014 and 2015.
Edmonson acknowledged last week that the FBI notified him "they would be interviewing some of our guys," even as the State Police sought to distance the agency itself from the criminal investigation.
"The organization is under a cloud, and Edmonson is responsible for that cloud," said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the watchdog Metropolitan Crime Commission in New Orleans. "The State Police finds itself in a compromised position because of some of the occurrences he's allowed to happen on his watch."
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Kennedy, R-Madisonville, took exception to the Las Vegas trip and accused Edmonson of squandering taxpayer dollars amid the state's fiscal crisis.
Edmonson, for his part, insisted he had not authorized the detour and quickly altered State Police overtime policies after news of the trip surfaced. He also ordered an internal investigation into the Las Vegas trip that remains pending, a probe that is separate from the travel audit ordered by the governor.
Edmonson is the longest-serving State Police superintendent in Louisiana history, having been appointed in 2008 by former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy on Friday called for the resignation of Col. Mike Edmonson, the Louis…
Miguez, the state representative, asked Daryl Purpera, the legislative auditor, to examine "all expenses and reimbursements, including overtime," associated with out-of-state trips by senior State Police officials to conferences and other events.
In a letter dated Monday, he called for "an independent audit free from any potential political influence" and asked Purpera to examine travel reimbursements, expenses and other internal documentation between 2008 and 2017.
"I believe we must know if this is a systemic problem within the LSP leadership and across the LSP," Miguez wrote.
In a telephone interview, Miguez stopped short of calling for Edmonson to step aside, saying not enough details are known. "My whole goal is to find out the facts of the scenario," he said, "and we don't necessarily have all those yet."
Purpera said he has been contacted by three state lawmakers regarding an inquiry into State Police travel. "We're going to move it up in the plan," he said, adding that his auditors had been planning to examine State Police travel records even before they received Miguez's letter.
"I’ve spoken to (Edmonson), and what I want to help them do is build the processes and controls if they're not in place right now, and I'm not saying they're not," Purpera said.
He added that it was not clear that his team will be able to examine Edmonson's full nine-year tenure because some relevant records are required to be retained only three years under the state's public records law. "We'll have to see what level of records we have," he said.