The Louisiana State Police continues to feel the ripples of scandal left in the wake for former Superintendent Mike Edmonson.
Edmonson retired amid the fallout after news broke that some of his officers made a detour to Las Vegas while driving a State Police SUV from Louisiana to California – all while earning overtime pay.
That was an ugly episode for the state’s top law enforcement agency.
And it didn’t get any better this week. State auditors released a draft of a report that details the personal expenses Edmonson and his family piled up on the backs of taxpayers during his nine years on the job.
From 2008 until his retirement earlier this year, Edmonson and his family lived in the lap of luxury in the Residential Conference Center, a facility that is supposed to house the governor and top cop during emergencies.
Not only was Edmonson’s home supplied to him, but he received a host of other lucrative perks that you and I helped provide.
According to the audit report, Edmonson was the first State Police head to live in the state building. But he never claimed the benefit on his W-2 forms, the audit reportedly says.
Perhaps he paid taxes on the living arrangement. We will probably find out sooner or later.
But that’s not all. Edmonson wasn’t completely satisfied with his new surroundings. Taxpayers shelled out money for a new shoe closet to be added to the residence.
And we bore other costs as well.
While Edmonson and his family were staying at the Residential Conference Center, taxpayers were doing him all sorts of favors. We were buying him hotel rooms in New Orleans during Carnival. We were driving the members of his family to and fro. And we were even walking his dog.
OK. We weren’t literally doing any of those things. But taxpayers throughout our great state had a little extra burden just so we could provide these services to a person who was supposed to be a public servant.
Oh, and this is the best part. We even shelled out money to dry-clean his clothes. And that was on top of the dry-cleaning stipend he received from the State Police.
All of this was just too much for U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La. He fired off an angry and righteous letter to the state Department of Revenue registering his disapproval of the whole affair.
“Col. Edmonson is not above the law,” the letter says. “In fact, he took on an added responsibility as a public servant to conduct himself with honor and honesty.”
Kennedy, widely speculated to be a candidate for governor in 2019, tried to use the issue as a divisive tool against Gov. John Bel Edwards, who would likely be Kennedy’s political opponent if he does run.
This is a strange case to make though.
First, Edmonson served the lion’s share of his term under Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal. Second, most of Edmonson’s term in office coincided with Kennedy’s tenure as state treasurer, during which he was suspiciously silent about the objections he now loudly raises.
All Louisiana taxpayers should be livid about Edmonson’s compensation package from the state. There is no reason for Louisiana, which is struggling to keep the doors to our universities and hospitals open, should be paying the living expenses of the top police official. His salary was more than enough to do that.
We shouldn’t be paying overtime for police officers to drive across the country, stop off in Sin City and attend a conference with their colleagues.
And we shouldn’t have to listen to the self-serving and late-arriving political attacks from someone who should have long ago known about and shouted about some of these wasteful expenses.
Unfortunately, we have grown used to such behavior.
Editorial Page Editor Michael Gorman can be reached at 448-7612 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.