State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson Monday showed his true colors and they weren’t blue. (Hint: think canaries, school buses and bananas) in the wake of revelations about sending four State Troopers to San Diego last October in an unmarked State Police vehicle.
His demotion, albeit likely temporary, of Maj. Derrell Williams, head of State Police Internal Affairs, in an effort to deflect responsibility from himself may backfire with the discovery of three pages among hundreds of pages of documents that contain Edmonson’s signature as evidence he knew of the Vegas trip at least since last November.
Meanwhile, a new wrinkle has emerged, thanks to Facebook (people just can’t help letting social media get them in trouble). It seems that Michelle Hyatt posted photos of her and husband, Lt. Rodney Hyatt (one of the four who drive the Ford Expedition) at the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam during that little trip out west.
The photos have since been removed (as have every single post she previously had on Facebook), but their brief appearance raises a critical question: Was she, a civilian, riding in the state vehicle on that San Diego trip? If so, that raises all manner of liability issues and violates all kinds of state regulations.
If she was not a passenger, how did she get to those sites for the photos?
But back to Edmonson. He announced sweeping changes in overtime regulations in light of his incredibly ill-advised order to have the vehicle driven to San Diego for the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference where he was presented an award that was originally slated for another Louisiana State Trooper—a former State Trooper of the Year.
Of course, in announcing the CHANGES and throwing four subordinates under the bus in order to maintain his saintly aura, he has yet to address the circumstances of how he managed to break in line ahead of Maj. Carl Saizan, a 33-year State Police veteran and former State Trooper of the Year who was originally slated for the award until his nomination was pulled in favor of Edmonson, who was probably overdue for an out-of-state trip.
The Advocate broke the story Sunday morning followed by the LouisianaVoice story we’d been working on for two months. Monday night, investigative reporter Lee Zurik of WVUE Fox 8 TV in New Orleans aired his STORY that raised serious questions about Edmonson’s honesty in saying he was unaware of the side trip.
LouisianaVoice has copies of three documents containing Edmonson’s signatures approving expenditures submitted by Williams at Tusayan, Arizona, site of the Grand Canyon, and at the Venetian Palazzo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Two of the documents were signed by Edmonson on Dec. 20 and the other more than a month earlier, on Nov. 10.
I believe in law enforcement, that’s called documentary evidence.
LouisianaVoice made public records requests on Saturday for:
- All Training and Travel Requests completed, signed, filed and approved for authority to take the Ford Expedition (Vehicle No. 80331) to California in October of 2016;
- All authorizations for Out of State Travel completed, signed, filed and approved for out of state travel to California by each individual in LSP who traveled to California in September and October, 2016.
We have not heard back from Public Information Officer Doug Cain.
Meanwhile, Edmonson needs to explain how he can justify punishing subordinates two and three months after he signed off on the expense accounts of the senior officer making the trip in a state vehicle permanently assigned to his second in command, Special Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy.
Edmonson told Zurik that those supervisors (including Dupuy) who signed off on the expenses of the other three troopers in the vehicle would answer to him.
The real question is: Who does Edmonson answer to? Maj. Catherine Flinchum, the one he assigned to investigate the four in the Expedition? Department of Public Safety Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc? The State Police Commission, headed by one of his troopers? Gov. John Bel Edwards?
Since it was Edwards who made the decision (at the insistence of the Sheriffs’ Association), it should be Edwards to sees to it this whole mess is sorted out.
Edmonson says he’s “embarrassed” by the Vegas trip—a trip he’s known about since November.
The governor should be embarrassed by his Superintendent of State Police, the man who is the public face of law and order and all that’s supposed to be good, honest, and trustworthy.
The fact is, he appears to be neither and it’s past time for the governor to cut his losses.