Louisiana State Police Supt. Col. Mike Edmonson speaks during an interview Tuesday, March 15, 2017 at LSP headquarters. Col. Edmonson submitted a letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday, saying his final day will be March 24, but insisted that despite recent controversies, he has been considering retiring for as long as six to 10 months.

As Louisiana's longest-tenured State Police superintendent, Mike Edmonson created a life of luxury for his family at taxpayers' expense, ordering troopers to chauffeur his wife around the state, tapping state resources to service his son's Jeep and even relying on trusties to walk the family dog at the Department of Public Safety compound where the Edmonsons lived rent-free for years. 

Edmonson, who retired amid scandal this year, also allowed friends to stay in New Orleans hotel rooms — paid for by the city of New Orleans — reserved for troopers providing security at Mardi Gras; ate free meals at the State Police cafeteria; ordered inmates to deliver food to his residence; and improperly used the Governor's Mansion dry-cleaning service to clean his uniforms — while taking a stipend from the state for dry cleaning.

Those are among the findings of a scathing report being finalized this month by the state Legislative Auditor's Office — an inquiry that portrays Edmonson as a freeloader who never turned down a handout.

The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Advocate, concludes that Edmonson may have broken several laws during his nine years as superintendent, a tenure marked by a pattern of using public resources for personal benefit and questionable excesses, like free tickets to the annual Endymion ball. 

Edmonson said Friday that he received the draft earlier this week and was still reviewing it.

"By reporting the document, you will be negating my legal right to review," he wrote in a text message. "The process is for me to respond back to them first, not the media. Whoever furnished you with the report did so without the approval of the auditor's office."

"The report is lengthy and I am preparing a detailed response for the legislative auditor," he added in a later message. "I look forward to answering any questions after the release of the final report." 

The audit began as a review of State Police travel, ordered by Gov. John Bel Edwards after The Advocate reported this year that a group of troopers charged taxpayers thousands of dollars for overtime and overnight stays at tourist destinations last year as they drove to a law enforcement conference in California.

According to the report, Edmonson falsely told state auditors — as he did the public and the news media — that he "was not aware of the detours to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas until after the trip." 

The Advocate reported Thursday that, in fact, Edmonson remained in contact with the troopers during their entire trip, according to cellphone records and text messages that Edmonson received about his troopers posing in front of the Hoover Dam.

A State Police internal affairs investigation found that Edmonson deleted text messages off the phone of Rodney Hyatt, one of the troopers on the trip who was recently demoted for submitting falsified time sheets, raising the prospect that Edmonson could face criminal charges. 

Feds are interested

The allegations against Edmonson also have attracted federal attention, authorities said Friday. 

"The Louisiana State Police has been and continues to coordinate efforts with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding this matter," said Maj. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman.

Cain referred questions to acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson, of the Middle District of Louisiana, who confirmed that his office "has been and will continue coordinating with State Police" on this matter.    

The state Legislative Auditor's Office report could present more significant legal problems for Edmonson, who stepped aside in March after internal affairs investigators briefed him on concerns they had about the troopers' side trip.

Among those concerns was Edmonson's use of a state credit card to purchase more than $7,000 in special meals without approval from the Division of Administration. Those meals were "not sufficiently documented to show their business purpose," according to the report.  

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The auditors determined that Edmonson moved his family into the Department of Public Safety compound "without legal authority," and that he had the state pick up his utility bills, including cable television and electricity. The compound, known formally as the Residential Conference Center, was built in 2002 and originally was intended to house the governor and State Police superintendent during emergency situations. 

At some point, the Edmonsons had the residence modified to construct a shoe closet for Edmonson's wife.

The auditors noted that Edmonson's use of the residence — at an estimated value of $434,720 from February 2008 to March 2017 — was not included as a fringe benefit on his W-2 forms. It's unclear whether Edmonson paid federal taxes on the benefit, but auditors clearly believe he should have. 

"Statements from DPS employees indicate that Col. Edmonson is the only State Police superintendent to move his family into" the compound, the auditors wrote. "DPS employees told us that a trusty worked at the (compound) exclusively to cook, clean and perform other services for Col. Edmonson and his family, including walking Col. Edmonson's dog." 

Edmonson similarly used the dry-cleaning service to clean his uniforms and other clothing for free even though he received a daily allowance from the State Police to clean his uniform — a benefit that totaled more than $6,300 between January 2014 and March 2017.

Auditors interviewed the State Police captain who supervises the troopers assigned to the Governor's Mansion, who said that "he has worked at the mansion for over 26 years, and that no State Police superintendent other than Col. Edmonson has had his clothes cleaned at the mansion," according to the report. 

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The supervisor added that he "did not feel that he was in a position to question Col. Edmonson's actions" because he reported directly to Edmonson. 

Running errands

Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a New Orleans-based watchdog group that has been critical of Edmonson for years, said the audit marked "a day of celebration for the rank-and-file trooper that was aware of what (Edmonson) was doing to the organization during his tenure, and his self-serving decisions." 

"He was less the colonel of the State Police and more the Boss Hogg of the State Police," Goyeneche said, referring to the greedy villain from "The Dukes of Hazzard" TV series, "and this report, I think, exposes that." 

For years, according to the report, Edmonson ordered troopers to provide transportation for his wife, whether she was bar-hopping in New Orleans, gambling in Lake Charles or catching a concert in Lafayette. Troopers routinely were used to run personal errands for Edmonson while they were on the clock, the audit found.

One trooper reported driving Edmonson's wife, mother-in-law and a friend to and from a Bob Seger concert at the Cajundome in Lafayette. State Police also frequently gave Edmonson's wife a lift to the airport. 

"Other troopers informed us that they were required to escort Col. Edmonson's wife and friend to the French Quarter while wearing costumes, which may have included parts of the State Police uniform," the report says. 

The auditors concluded that Edmonson also may have broken the law by providing complimentary hotel rooms to friends and family and receiving an improper reimbursement. Edmonson allowed friends and family members to stay in hotel rooms that were paid for by the city of New Orleans and that were intended for troopers working during Mardi Gras.

Edmonson would receive multiple rooms in his name or the names of other troopers, the audit found. He also was reimbursed by State Police for a hotel room in 2014, even though the city had bought a hotel room for him elsewhere. 

In February 2015, two of Edmonson's friends stayed in a suite at the Windsor Court that had been intended for troopers. Edmonson acknowledged inviting the friends but claimed he "thought it was being paid for" by them, the audit says. 

"Col. Edmonson's friend also said that there were multiple occasions when Col. Edmonson told his wife and him that (Edmonson) had booked a room for them at the Windsor Court Hotel, and this may have been one of those occasions," the report says. "However, Col. Edmonson's friend said he and his wife were under the impression that Col. Edmonson paid for the room personally and had no idea the City of New Orleans paid for the room."

The following year, Edmonson secured another hotel room intended for a trooper for his stepdaughter and her friend, at Loews New Orleans Hotel. Edmonson claimed the room was "an extra room that had been taken out of service because the air conditioner was broken," the report shows.  

The auditors also determined that Edmonson received free tickets each year to the Endymion Extravaganza, an apparent violation of a state law that prohibits public servants from accepting anything of economic value "as a gift or gratuity from any person or employee of any person who has or is seeking to obtain contractual or other business or financial relationships with the public servant's agency."

Endymion paid the State Police nearly $400,000 from 2013 to 2017 for troopers to provide security details. 

Edmonson also used state resources to have minor repairs, washing and detailing services done on his family's vehicles. For instance, he used fleet operations personnel to replace his wife's tires and change the top of his son's Jeep, "which has a hard top for the winter and a soft top for the summer," the report says.  

Free meals?

The report also found Edmonson failed to pay for many of his meals at the State Police cafeteria. 

"Col. Edmonson told us that it is possible that during his tenure as colonel, he inadvertently may have walked out of the cafeteria without paying for his coffee," the report says. "However, he said he paid for his meals and that his meals were often paid for by other people. The cafeteria manager estimated that Col. Edmonson did not pay for his meals at least 50 percent of the time." 

The auditors also faulted Edmonson for allowing four troopers to drive, rather than fly, across the country to an International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in October 2016, saying the road trip — and the troopers' side excursions to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas — resulted in at least $13,000 in unnecessary taxpayer expenditures.

The report said State Police failed to maintain records of which training sessions troopers attended at the conference, making it difficult to determine whether the agency sent an appropriate number of employees to the meeting. 

The auditors concluded that Edmonson and his former chief of staff, Charles Dupuy, "appear to have directed and/or approved conference travel without considering state policy." 

"By not having a centralized system for tracking out-of-state travel expenses," the report said, "DPS management cannot monitor the cost-effectiveness of sending employees to certain training events."

Cain, the State Police spokesman, said it would be premature to comment on the forthcoming audit report, citing the legislative auditor's "standard procedures and directives to the department." 

"We continue to cooperate with the Legislative Auditor's Office," Cain said. "The department is currently formulating our response to the findings and recommendations of the audit." 

Edmonson has been given until Dec. 12 to provide a written response to the draft report. 

Staff writer Gordon Russell contributed to this report.

Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.