State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson, along with at least four of his top deputies and the state fire marshal, quietly obtained hefty raises last month, with some getting as much as a 32 percent pay bump.
Edmonson now makes $43,085 more than he was making prior to Aug. 1, when most of the changes went into effect, according to data provided by State Civil Service spokeswoman Lindsay Ruiz de Chavez. That brings his salary up to $177,436, a 32 percent increase, according to the released figures.
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning, whose office is under the state Department of Public Safety, is now making $137,500, up from $103,950, also a 32 percent raise, the figures show.
Budgets for some state agencies saw cuts this year amid a financial squeeze. But Edmonson said the pay increases for him and some of his command staff were necessary to make State Police pay competitive with other law enforcement agencies across the state.
Pay increases for the Louisiana State Police came into focus in January 2015, when Edmonson argued for them before the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget. Edmonson said at that time the proposed increase would target only rank-and-file troopers.
"This isn't a pay raise that will affect me or the upper echelon," he had told the committee, according to a contemporaneous Advocate article.
But Edmonson said Friday that at that meeting in January 2015 he was arguing for only a partial implementation of a plan to enhance trooper pay.
After the committee approved the partial increase, former Gov. Bobby Jindal's staff made changes to allow for the full implementation of the pay plan, Edmonson said. That adjustment came after officials realized the plan as approved at the time would mean some majors could earn more than Edmonson.
Later that year, the Legislature passed the 2015-2016 state budget, known as House Bill 1, which includes an $11 million line item for "additional salary support for state troopers." That language was meant to include Edmonson and his top brass, he said.
"The legislators know what it's for. They voted on it and passed it," said State Police spokesman Maj. Doug Cain.
Richard Carbo, spokesman for Gov. John Bel Edwards, said Friday the governor was aware of the increase and that Chief of Staff Ben Nevers signed off on Edmonson's raise. Edmonson, in turn, signs off on the deputy superintendents' pay.
Edmonson said the governor decides on the actual amount he's paid.
"I'm extremely excited and pleased that the governor has adjusted my salary," Edmonson said. "I will continue to work extremely hard to protect the greatest assets in Louisiana, our citizens."
Cain noted that a study done in conjunction with LSU Shreveport recommended a pay structure that would bring trooper pay in line with competing agencies. He said some Louisiana sheriffs and high-ranking National Guard officials were making more than Edmonson, and he said the superintendent was making less than some of his majors. A major with 22 years on the job could make $140,890, according to a State Police pay grid.
Deputy Superintendent Charles Dupuy, who oversees day-to-day operations at the State Police, is now getting paid $161,305 per year as of Aug. 1, up from $140,890, a 14 percent rise, according to the Civil Service numbers.
Jason Starnes, who was newly installed as a Deputy Superintendent and serves as a chief administrative officer for the State Police is being paid $150,752, up from $128,934 as of Aug. 15.
Two other deputy superintendents, Glenn Staton and Murphy Paul, each saw their salaries rise from $140,890 to $150,752 — a seven percent increase — on Aug. 1, according to the data.
Browning said the raise came from a dedicated tax and that it had to do with his re-appointment to his job by Edwards. Like Edmonson, he also said the increase was necessary so that he's no longer paid less than any of his subordinates. Carbo said he was working late Friday to provide more information about Browning's raise.
The Advocate submitted a public records request to the State Police concerning pay raises on Sept. 1 but has yet to receive the documents. The agency says the records are still being redacted.