An attorney for Mike Edmonson told state auditors this month the longtime State Police superintendent "simply does not have the type of resources" he needs to respond to the allegations outlined in an explosive legislative audit that accused Edmonson of repeatedly abusing his power during his nine-year tenure.
The lawyer, Harry Rosenberg, told the auditors that Edmonson "was unable to engage in a meaningful preliminary conference" with the Legislative Auditor's Office "due to the premature release of the 'draft' audit."
The Advocate obtained a copy of the draft audit and reported its contents about two weeks before the document was officially released.
The Legislative Auditor's Office, however, noted that auditors had been scheduled to meet with Edmonson on Nov. 29 — three days before The Advocate published its first article about the audit — but that the former superintendent cancelled the meeting the day before.
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"We conducted an internal investigation but found no evidence the draft report was distributed by a Legislative Auditor employee," the auditors wrote in a revised audit, released Wednesday.
The response came more than a month after state auditors accused Edmonson of accepting an array of handouts and several other improprieties. The audit highlighted a number of freebies Edmonson received during his time as superintendent, including free hotel rooms in New Orleans during Mardi Gras that he also gave to friends and family; chauffeuring services for his family provided by troopers; free dry-cleaning services for Edmonson and his wife at the Governor's Mansion even though Edmonson received a dry-cleaning stipend; and even dog-walking services provided by state prisoners.
The audit also accused Edmonson of misusing a state credit card to buy thousands of dollars in unauthorized meals.
But the letter from Rosenberg, dated Jan. 16, did not address any of those allegations.
"Without hesitation, Col. Edmonson agrees with the recommendations of the auditors designed to enhance transparency and accountability," Rosenberg wrote. "Col. Edmonson, like his successor, Col. (Kevin) Reeves, agrees that administrative policies, record keeping and oversight always can be improved, and the auditors' recommendations advance that very goal of better defined policies and protocol for the Louisiana State Police."
Another major finding in the audit was that Edmonson may have broken the law by moving his family into the State Police compound without "legal authority," as he lived rent free in the so-called Residential Conference Center. He apparently did not pay taxes on a benefit that auditors believe should have been included on his W-2 form.
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Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney in New Orleans, disputed that contention, pointing to a recent letter written by Timmy Teepell, who served as chief of staff for former Gov. Bobby Jindal, in which Teepell said he personally authorized Edmonson's living arrangements at the State Police compound.
Rosenberg added that Edmonson's "immediate presence with the governor, the local sheriffs, police chiefs and senior public officials was paramount and unquestionably in the public's best interest during his over nine years as head of the Louisiana State Police."
The auditors responded that they believed Teepell "lacked the authority" to make such an approval, in part because Jindal had not even taken office at the time. "Moreover," they wrote, "authorization has no bearing on the taxability issue."
Rosenberg declined to comment Wednesday when reached by The Advocate. Edmonson has not responded to repeated requests for comment on the audit.
Edmonson, who retired in March, is the subject of a wide-ranging FBI investigation that has tracked the legislative auditors' findings but also explored other aspects of Edmonson's tenure, such as his extensive travel using state helicopters.
Edmonson's retirement was hastened by a scandal involving a group of state troopers who charged taxpayers for a lavish "side trip" to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas that they took while driving across the country to a law enforcement conference in California.
Auditors faulted Edmonson for allowing the troopers to drive to the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in October 2016, saying the road trip — and the side excursions — resulted in at least $13,000 in "unnecessary" taxpayer expenditures.
The audit also found Edmonson misled state officials — and the news media — by claiming he "was not aware of the detours to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas until after the trip." In fact, text messages showed Edmonson had been aware of the side trip all along and that he remained in contact with the troopers during their trip.
Rosenberg's letter did not address Edmonson's knowledge of the "side trip" but offered a vague denial that Edmonson ever approved overtime "that a few state troopers received as the result of travel outside of the state."
"Tellingly, as recognized by the auditors, these troopers never received permission from Col. Edmonson to charge overtime associated with their forays," Rosenberg wrote. "In sharp contrast, though Col. Edmonson's expected work schedule as colonel of the Louisiana State Police was 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the week, he invariably worked many hours per day beyond those scheduled hours (often six to eight hours in addition to those work days), and frequently his duties required work during evenings and through weekends. Yet, as colonel, Col. Edmonson never requested nor received overtime pay for these numerous hours of public service."
Edmonson served with the State Police for 36 years. After retiring in March, he founded a limited-liability company — called MDE LLC — and has been serving as a consultant in emergency response. He also works with a social media company called Chatterkick.