By turning in his badge years earlier than expected, Col. Mike Edmonson walked away from tens of thousands of dollars in retirement benefits he could have earned had he remained State Police superintendent through Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration.
But he still will pocket an annual pension of $128,559, according to figures released Monday by the Louisiana State Police Retirement System. The system's board will consider Edmonson's benefits at its meeting next month but is expected to approve them.
Edmonson, 58, Louisiana's longest-serving State Police superintendent, retired last week following a tumultuous month in which his leadership increasingly was called into question.
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Among other controversies, he struggled to explain an embarrassing "side trip" that several high-ranking troopers took to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas last year as they drove to a law enforcement conference in San Diego, driving hundreds of miles out of their way and charging taxpayers for overtime and pricey hotel rooms.
That excursion prompted a series of state investigations into State Police travel and is expected to result in disciplinary action against the troopers involved.
Edmonson's pension benefited from a hefty $43,000 raise he received in August, a 32 percent pay boost that hiked his salary to $177,436. But because he stepped down on Friday, less than a year after receiving the raise, his so-called final average compensation remained significantly below its potential. That figure is based upon a state employee's highest-paid three years of service.
Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday appointed a veteran trooper from north Louisiana to lead …
"This wasn't the perfect time" to retire, Edmonson acknowledged Monday, "but it was the right time."
Edmonson initially planned to remain on leave for a couple of weeks following his departure, having accumulated hundreds of hours of compensatory time over his 37-year career. But he said in an interview Monday that state regulations prohibit the "double encumbering" of the superintendent position, meaning he could not remain on the payroll for any length of time following Edwards' appointment last week of Maj. Kevin Reeves as interim superintendent.
Reeves, a veteran trooper from north Louisiana, formally took the reins of the agency on Saturday and is expected to remain at the helm until June, when Edwards names Edmonson's permanent successor.
Edmonson said he intends to donate his more than 200 hours of comp time to a fund "for troopers who need it during an emergency."
"I'll lose those hours I could have taken off, but I can donate them to somebody that may need them," he said. "I'm about helping people."
Still, Edmonson said he expects to receive a payout for up to 300 hours of unused sick and annual leave. He said it's unclear when he will receive that supplemental benefit.
In announcing his retirement as superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, Col. Mike Edmo…
Edmonson's retirement benefits are unusually complex to calculate because of a decision he made to participate in the state's now-defunct Deferred Retirement Option Program, known as the old DROP. He entered the program as a captain and, at the time, was looking at a far lower pension because troopers' benefits were frozen at their average three years of highest compensation prior to entering DROP, even if they continued to work.
Lawmakers altered the DROP program in 2009, allowing troopers, and many other retirees, to enter what's known as "back DROP" and to calculate their pension benefits based on the highest 36 months of pay from the date of their actual retirement.
In an effort to boost Edmonson's benefits — and those of one other similarly situated trooper — state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, added an amendment to an unrelated bill that passed on the final day of the 2014 legislative session. The legislation, which would have ensured Edmonson's pension was based on his higher salary as a colonel, generated a maelstrom of controversy and a lawsuit.
The so-called "Edmonson amendment" would have allowed Edmonson to calculate his retirement as if he had never entered DROP. Had it stayed in place, he would be taking home $15,079 more a year in retirement income than the amount he ultimately had to settle for.
Edmonson ultimately said he would not accept the enhanced benefits, and the State Police retirement board also rejected the changes.
In the interview Monday, Edmonson described the transition to civilian life as "extremely different" and a change that will take time.
"I've been used to a very high-paced work style, lots of moving parts and different things going on," he said. "I need some time to kind of reconnect with the world outside of State Police."
He said he will stay in touch with Reeves in the coming weeks and will remain the "biggest cheerleader" of the State Police.
"My intention is still to be part of the community of Baton Rouge and the entire state," he said. "I'm a trooper for life."
WWL-TV reporter Katie Moore contributed to this report.