Former state police Col. Mike Edmonson seems to generate scandals faster than troopers write speeding tickets. His epic fall from grace after nine years as the state's Top Cop has tainted a long-respected agency that deserved better than his legacy of petty corruption and lies.
Edmonson announced his retirement amid controversy in March after four of his favored officers took a totally gratuitous road trip to California to watch him receive a national award. One of the officers took his wife, with Edmonson's blessing. Along the way the merry band detoured to Las Vegas — on taxpayers' dime — with some logging overtime to boot.
When the boondoggle was exposed, Edmonson feigned ignorance and ordered an internal investigation.
Turns out he wasn't so obtuse after all. The investigation, which clearly wasn't a whitewash, concluded Edmonson not only knew of the officers' Vegas vacay but also exchanged texts about it in real time — then tried to cover his tracks by erasing the texts from one officer's state police cellphone. The colonel's attempt at a cover-up fell short when investigators recovered text messages from the cellphone of the officer's wife. The recovered texts plainly showed that Edmonson stayed in touch with the officers during their jaunt — and even joked about it.
Considering how quickly — and thoroughly — Edmonson was exposed as a liar, perhaps he really is a dumbass.
To make matters worse, The New Orleans Advocate thereafter obtained a draft of a Legislative Auditor's report alleging Edmonson had been living like a potentate — again on taxpayers' dime — during his tenure as head of the state police. The draft report paints a picture of Edmonson as a venal public official who never passed up a perk. A few examples:
• Edmonson and his wife lived rent-free for nine years at a Department of Public Safety compound, a benefit estimated by auditors to be worth more than $430,000 — which he apparently did not report as income as required by the IRS.
• He charged the state for renovations to the compound that included a shoe closet for his wife, and for electricity, cable TV, internet service, cleaning supplies and flowers.
• He often got troopers to chauffeur his wife and others around the state.
• He used his state police credit card to pay for thousands of dollars in questionable meals — and often ate lunch at the department cafeteria without paying, while rank and file employees paid for their meals.
• He brought his and his family's vehicles to be serviced at the department's Fleet Operations center.
• He got troopers to bring his and sometimes his wife's clothes to the Governor's Mansion, where a dry-cleaning service laundered them — yet he trousered thousands of dollars from a dry-cleaning stipend.
The report sums up Edmonson's defense of his excesses by noting, with a dryness worthy of Horace Rumpole, "Colonel Edmonson stated that no one complained to him about performing these services for him and his family."
Guess they were hoping he'd remember them next time a road trip became available.
Meanwhile, Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan
Crime Commission and a former prosecutor, summed up Edmonson's prospects more succinctly, telling The Advocate, "It's time to lawyer up."