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Archive for the ‘Auditor’ Category

The late comedian Andy Griffith began his classic bit entitled What it was, was Football with this line:

“It was back last October, I believe it was…”

Well, it was back last December—Dec. 5, 2017, to be precise—that I speculated in my LouisianaVoice POST about the “premature” release of that Louisiana State Police (LSP) audit so critical of former LSP Superintendent Mike Edmonson that ol’ Mike most probably leaked that “premature” audit copy himself in order to set up a claim that his defense, in case of ensuring criminal charges, had been tainted.

Back on Dec. 5, I wrote: “A premature release of the audit before Edmonson had a chance to respond could conceivably prejudice the case against Edmonson. Accordingly, Edmonson (or more likely someone acting anonymously on his behalf) slipped a copy of the audit to The Advocate/WWL.”

The ploy may have worked had it not been for WWL-TV posting the auditor’s cover letter to Edmonson. That pretty much put the ball in Edmonson’s court in terms of identifying the leaker. That’s because there were only two copies of the audit draft. One went to LSP and one to Edmonson. Only the one that went to Edmonson contained the auditor’s cover letter. And when WWL abruptly removed the video from its web page when I called attention to it, that pretty much confirmed my theory.

Well, wouldn’t you know Mikey done went and done zackly I said he’d do.

Thanks in no small part to the resourcefulness of Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Jim Mustian, we now know that Mike won’t be submitting his response to the audit. That response, was initially due back on Jan. 15 and I did a post about his missing the deadline. Even then, it was pretty much a certainty there would be no response from Edmonson. It’s difficult, after all, to defend the indefensible.

But now he’s made it official through his legal counsel, Harry Rosenberg. Mustian had a STORY today that quoted Rosenberg as telling state auditors that his client was finding it impossible to “engage in a meaningful preliminary conference” with the auditor’s office “due to the premature release of the ‘draft’ audit.” SEE ROSENBERG LETTER AT END OF AUDIT

Now, folks, I’m not blessed with the ability to see into the future but this wasn’t a hard call to make. WWL’s posting of that cover letter—and its sudden disappearance from the station’s online story—along with Mike’s early protestations made his strategy oh, so very easy to decipher.

And, oh yes, that FBI INVESTIGATION also announced by Mustian on Tuesday is the latest wrinkle in the ongoing probe of his role as Louisiana’s top cop. The feds are interviewing LSP helicopter pilots and looking at flight logs. They’re making a list and checking it twice and Mike has to be feeling the heat.

So, with the news of the FBI investigation and Mike’s declining to provide his response to the audit can mean only one thing: Rosenberg, no stranger to criminal matters given his experience as a former U.S. attorney for Louisiana’s Eastern District from 1990-1993, has undoubtedly admonished his client to sit down and shut up.

That’s what lawyers do. They tell clients to zip it because they’re the smartest people in the room and they think everyone should listen to them. Except in this case, he’s probably right—if you believe the hokum that Rosenberg dropped into his letter to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera. Edmonson, according to Rosenberg, was nothing less than a saint who was a “consistent calming presence” during hurricanes, shootings, and floods” and that San Diego motor trip by four troopers was all their fault and none of Edmonson’s. In short, we should probably lay rose petals in his path.

There is one unanswered question about Rosenberg’s letter to the auditor, however.

He copied one other person with the letter: State Sen. Mike WALSWORTH of West Monroe.

Walsworth is a member of the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee, but he’s not chairman or vice-chair and he’s not from Edmonson’s senatorial district, so why would he do that?

It’s enough to make one wonder if Walsworth’s name might be on those LSP flight logs and copying him with the letter was a way of giving him a heads-up. Just sayin’.

State Sen. NEIL RISER must be fuming that he didn’t get a copy of the Rosenberg letter.

In retrospect, maybe it’s unfortunate that Riser’s attempt to bump Edmonson’s retirement up by about $100,000 per year was unsuccessful. He may need the money to pay his attorney.

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Mike Edmonson has missed his self-imposed deadline.

First, Edmonson, former Superintendent of Louisiana State Police (LSP) screamed foul when a state AUDIT of LSP was leaked prematurely, ostensibly before he’d had the opportunity to review it and to respond.

Then, when WWL-TV ran a screen shot of the auditor’s LETTER to Edmonson, we learned that the alleged “leak” in all likelihood came from Edmonson himself because only two copies of the audit were printed.

One copy went to LSP and the other to Edmonson for his review and comments before publication. But only one of those two copies contained the letter to the former state top cop.

That would seem to eliminate all potential sources of the leak but one: Edmonson himself.

But Edmonson, apparently unaware of the significance of that screen shot, went on the offensive, claiming that he had been grievously wronged by the premature “leaking” of the audit before he had his chance to respond.

“For inexplicable reasons, the confidential draft report regarding me and the Louisiana State Police was leaked to the media and the contents of the draft then was (sic) disseminated to media outlets throughout the State—all before I could respond to the various contentions (sic),” he said in a written statement to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera. “Realizing the inherent unfairness to me, the residents of our State, as well as respect for the normal procedures, I trust your office has begun an investigation into this improper conduct and will soon report your findings.

“…Given the publication of large segments of a preliminary commentary, and the apparent breach of normal practices that seems to have disclosed the entirety of the confidential draft report, I am now constrained (sic) to notify you that you can release the report and provide your report to the Louisiana State Senate this week. I, in turn, will promptly deliver my response feeling confident the residents of this State will not prematurely reach conclusions until all of the facts are presented. That is the way the process works, that is the only impartial and objective approach, and I strongly believe that is what our fellow citizens expect.”

On Dec. 14, he said he would submit his official response to the audit’s “various contentions” by Jan. 15, 2018. That gave him a full month to compose his rebuttal.

https://louisianavoice.com/2017/12/14/edmonson-predictably-tries-to-spin-lsp-audit-release-as-gov-edwards-like-lady-macbeth-tries-in-vain-to-remove-the-spot/

January 15, 2018, came and went yesterday (Monday) and a text message to Purpera’s office revealed Edmonson has yet to submit his response.

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One of the most frustrating jobs in state government has to be that of the Legislative Auditor.

The office is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that audits and sworn financial statements of all public entities are carried out in a timely—and legally-prescribed—manner and that the books of those entities are in order.

Yet, whenever discrepancies are found and reported, little comes of the auditors’ reports. Oh, in cases where the findings are significant, such as the recent audit of the management of former Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, a report will make a big splash in the media.

But then, it quickly becomes old news and is forgotten. All too often, in the end, nothing is done to actually rein in those who might be guilty of lax fiscal responsibility over their organization or worse—possible malfeasance.

Seldom is there any follow-up on the part of those who have the authority to make changes. An office or agency head continues to lead the organization with little or no disciplinary action handed down from above, be it from a department head, cabinet member, or, in some cases, the governor himself.

In short, there is little real accountability in state government. A critical audit, conducted at no small expense, points out shortcomings, a management letter is generated promising reforms, and life—and abuses of the public trust—go on unabated.

As Exhibit A, we have the Auditor’s NON-COMPLIANCE LIST, a dishonor roll that dates back as far as 2004 and which contains well over 100 agencies, offices, organizations and individuals who have failed to comply with state statutes.

The list is liberally peppered with justices of the peace, community development districts, constables, social organizations, and even municipalities, sheriffs’ offices, and clerks of court—all reflecting the widespread disregard for fiscal responsibility or, to be charitable, just plain ignorance of the law.

Any organization that has any financial relationship with the state or a parish must, depending on the size of the organization’s budget, provide a review/attestation of its financial condition, a sworn financial statement, or a full-blown audit on a yearly basis.

From Acadia to Winn, virtually every parish has at least one organization on the non-compliance list. Here are a few examples:

  • The Beauregard Parish Hospital Service District No. 1, Merryville—five times between the years 2004 and 2009: failure to produce an audit;
  • The Ward 7 Caddo Parish Constable—seven years between 2009 and 2016: no sworn financial statements;
  • The Resource Center in Caddo—10 straight years, from 2008 to 2017: no financial statements;
  • Louisiana Auto Insurance Plan, East Baton Rouge Parish—10 straight years, from 2007 to 2016: no audit;
  • Ville Platte City Marshal, Evangeline Parish—six consecutive years, from 2012 to 2017: no sworn financial statement;
  • St. Landry Parish Constable, District 8—nine years between 2005 and 2016: no sworn financial statement.

State Auditor Daryl Purpera, contacted by LouisianaVoice, acknowledged the frustration of constantly having to chase down the various offices. “It keeps us pretty busy and it costs the state money to track this in terms of both money and man-hours.”

He said state law says when any organization found to be in non-compliance for three consecutive years, that is considered malfeasance. “That law is on the books,” he said.

STATE REP. NEIL ABRAMSON

A few years back, State Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans) attempted to push through a bill in the legislature which would required any non-governmental organization (NGO) or public body to be on the Legislative Auditor’s approved list (not on the non-compliance list) in order to be eligible to receive any state funding or to conduct business with the state.

Abramson’s bill failed.

Now, who would have ever thought that?

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Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera has released the investigative audit of Louisiana State Police (LSP) pursuant to receiving an undated letter from former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson in which Edmonson said he felt “constrained” to notify Purpera to release the audit to the State Senate.

At the same time, Edmonson said he would submit his official response to the audit’s “various contentions” by Jan. 15, 2018.

Edmonson, in his rambling, grammar mistake-laden letter, continued to cling to the claim that the audit was released prematurely by Purpera’s office.

Simultaneous to the release of the audit, Gov. John Bel Edwards released a curious two-paragraph statement of his own concerning the findings of the audit report. In his statement, Edwards managed to avoid mentioning Edmonson by name, referring to him instead as LSP’s “previous leader.”

“I have welcomed this investigation from the beginning and instructed the Louisiana State Police to fully cooperate,” Edwards said. “The Legislative Auditor’s report uncovered some troubling findings and serious problems with past abuses of power from its previous leader who left his post in March. I believe that public servants must always hold themselves to the highest ethical standards,” the governor said. “That being said, our men and women of the State Police are honorable public servants who do a tremendous job protecting the citizens of Louisiana, often under very dangerous circumstances. Through the leadership of Col. Kevin Reeves (Edmonson’s successor), who took the helm of this department in March of this year, the department has already taken significant steps to restore public trust and accountability. Col. Reeves is one of the finest individuals I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and I am confident that he is already leading the State Police in a new, positive direction.”

Well, Gov. Edwards, I’m sorry, but you don’t get off that easily.

You have been governor now just a couple of weeks shy of two years. I have been writing about Mike Edmonson since June 2014, beginning with that bill amendment sneaked into the legislature on the last day of the 2014 session which would have given Edmonson an illegal boost to his retirement of about $100,000 per year. You voted for that amendment but then, to your credit, called for an investigation when the ruse was exposed by LouisianaVoice.

That story, which LouisianaVoice was first to break, put you and every other member of the Louisiana Legislature on notice of just what Edmonson was capable of. You knew from that day forward that despite his denials, he had encouraged Sen. Neil Riser to slip that amendment into the bill.

But LouisianaVoice didn’t stop there. We kept writing stories about Edmonson’s mismanagement:

  • About his promotion of a supervisor who was hooked on prescription drugs;
  • About his promotion of a trooper who tried to sneak an underaged woman (not his wife) into a Mississippi casino;
  • About his lack of disciplinary action when a trooper had sex (twice) with a woman in his patrol vehicle while on duty;
  • About a trooper who was allowed over an extended period of time to work a fraction of his shift before going home and going to bed;
  • About how he lied to the State Police Commission about the creation of a lieutenant colonel position for a specific member of his inner circle;
  • About how he lied when he said the raises he pushed through for State Troopers would not benefit him or the command officers immediately under him (they did);

There were dozens more such stories published by LouisianaVoice.

Yes, Governor, I wrote consistently about Mike Edmonson for the year before you were elected and for the two-plus years since. You knew what the problems were. Still, you re-appointed him.

You even danced the old bureaucratic shuffle on that issue when I emailed you on Oct. 27, 2015, following your election:

“Please tell me your intentions as to the re-appointment of Mike Edmonson.”

Your response:

“I don’t intend one way or the other.”

But you did intend. You already knew, thanks to your endorsement by the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, that you had no choice other than to re-appoint him.

Edmonson himself told the Baton Rouge Advocate that you told him on the night of the election, at a party at the Hotel Monteleone, “that he had never even considered another candidate for superintendent.”

But you did have a choice. You had the West Point Honor Code to fall back on. You could have done the right thing and cut Edmonson loose because you already knew he was a liability.

Still, you re-appointed him. The Sheriffs’ Association endorsement meant a lot, didn’t it?

So please, Governor, don’t try to take the high road on this issue. The auditor’s report did not uncover a single problem that had not already been publicized on LouisianaVoice.

For three years.

And now, like Lady Macbeth, you’re trying to get the spot out. But it won’t wash.

But enough of that. Back to Mike Edmonson’s letter.

“As you of all people know,” he wrote to Purpera, “the protocol used…is to provide the recipient (of an audit), whether it is an individual, a public board, or another public body, with a confidential draft report to afford the responding party and opportunity to address the statements in the draft report before it is publicly disseminated.

“For inexplicable reasons, the confidential draft report regarding me and the Louisiana State Police was leaked to the media and the contents of the draft then was (sic) disseminated to media outlets throughout the State—all before I could respond to the various contentions (sic). Realizing the inherent unfairness to me, the residents of our State, as well as respect for the normal procedures, I trust your office has begun an investigation into this improper conduct and will soon report your findings.

“…Given the publication of large segments of a preliminary commentary, and the apparent breach of normal practices that seems to have disclosed the entirety of the confidential draft report, I am now constrained (sic) to notify you that you can release the report and provide your report to the Louisiana State Senate this week. I, in turn, will promptly deliver my response feeling confident the residents of this State will not prematurely reach conclusions until all of the facts are presented. That is the way the process works, that is the only impartial and objective approach, and I strongly believe that is what our fellow citizens expect.”

First of all, Mike, the contents of the audit were not disseminated to “media outlets throughout the state.” Two media outlets had it and they were news partners—the Baton Rouge Advocate and WWL-TV in New Orleans. That was it. Not throughout the state. Not even throughout Baton Rouge.

Second, there were only two copies of the audit. One went to LSP and the other to Edmonson. And the one to Edmonson was the only one with a cover letter to Edmonson himself—and that was the one that was released. WWL-TV even flashed a copy of that COVER LETTER on screen when it aired its story about the audit.

Ergo, there is only one way that audit could have been leaked: from Mike Edmonson himself or someone acting on his behalf. The motive could only be what Edmonson expressed in his letter: to allow him to claim he was treated unfairly and that his defense has been compromised by the prejudicial release of the audit before he could respond.

Unsurprisingly, when LouisianaVoice first called attention to WWL’s posting a copy of that cover letter, the station promptly took the story down. But screen shots of the letter were captured by viewers who apparently anticipated just such a move.

oOo

Editor’s Note: There’s a lot going on with this audit that cannot be covered in a single story. For example, Reeves and several of the troopers involved in that San Diego trip have responded to the audit in writing. One of those responses was 16 pages in length.

Plus, there was a meeting Thursday of the Legislative Audit Advisory Committee which had some interesting exchanges.

LouisianaVoice will be taking these on in separate stories over the coming days.

 

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It’s a common practice in investigative reporting to have confidential sources. I do myself because in many of those cases, the information comes from a person who cannot afford to have his identity revealed for fear of reprisals. Often a person must conceal his identity because to do otherwise could mean the loss of his job at worst, impossible working conditions at best.

Perhaps that is why New Orleans TV station WWL scrambled for damage control when LouisianaVoice revealed the source of the leaked Louisiana State Police (LSP) audit that was so critical of the management missteps of former LSP Superintendent Mike Edmonson.

Obviously, WWL and its news partner, the Baton Rouge Advocate, were trying to protect the identity of the one who leaked the audit (or indeed, may not of even known the source—I’ve received anonymous tips before; the story of the attempt to bump up Edmonson’s retirement by about $100,000 is an example) but WWL got a little sloppy when, in the course of airing its story, showed a copy of the audit’s cover letter to Edmonson.

They either didn’t know or forgot that cover letter went out to only one person—Edmonson. Only two copies of the audit were printed and the other, sans cover letter, went to LSP.

So, by showing that letter in its video coverage of the audit report, WWL blew Edmonson’s cover even as Edmonson was, in my late grandfather’s vernacular, squealing like a stuck pig over the “premature release” which he said adversely affected his response to the audit—just the way he planned it.

By crying foul, he could claim his defense, in case of subsequent criminal charges, has been tainted. After all, a Baton Rouge judge recently ruled that while Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera is protected as a public official from legal liability for the contents of an audit of the Louisiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs, he is not necessarily protected by a news release issued by the auditor’s office concerning the contents of that audit. The judge, in his ruling, has allowed a lawsuit by the former secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to go forward on that basis.

Edmonson then, or most likely his legal counsel, saw an opening. A premature release of the audit before Edmonson had a chance to respond could conceivably prejudice the case against Edmonson. Accordingly, Edmonson (or more likely someone acting anonymously on his behalf) slipped a copy of the audit to The Advocate/WWL.

It might have worked had it not bee for the posting of that cover letter on WWL. That let the cat out of the bag and exposed Edmonson as the leak.

WWL, in an effort to save face, quickly removed the video from its web page after LouisianaVoice blew the whistle. Now there’s just a story but no video.

But as a LSP officials said on Monday, “There are a ton of screen shots of the letter floating around out there, so it’s not gone.”

Two quotes come immediately to mind.

From Andy Taylor, talking to Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show:

“There’s mischief afoot.”

From the late C.B. Forgotston:

“You can’t make this stuff up.”

 

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