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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Could it be that Gov. John Bel Edwards has finally seen and heard enough about the shenanigans of Louisiana State Police (LSP) Superintendent Mike Edmonson?

If the tone of this NOLA.com STORY by Julia O’Donoghue Wednesday (Feb. 22) is any indication, Edmonson’s days at LSP may indeed be numbered.

Edwards earlier this week ordered auditors from the Division of Administration (DOA) to conduct an investigation into a trip taken by a gaggle of LSP personnel and hangers-on to witness Edmonson receive an award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) at its conference in San Diego.

Of particular interest to Edwards was the expenditure of thousands of dollars in salaries, overtime, fuel, lodging and meals for four State Troopers who drove an unmarked State Police vehicle assigned to Edmonson’s second-in-command to the event. That trek included a side trip to and overnight stays in Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Three of the four combined to claim 105 hours of overtime on the trip to and from San Diego, figures that appear far out of line with the distances traveled.

For example, each of the four claimed 12 hours to travel from the Grand Canyon resort city of Tusayan, Arizona, to Las Vegas, a distance of only 270 miles, a torrid pace of 22.5 mph. They also claimed 12 hours to drive from Las Vegas to San Diego, a trip of only 290 miles. For that leg of the journey, they put the petal to the metal, averaging a scorching 24 mph.

Can you say payroll fraud?

Maj. Derrell Williams did not claim overtime hours because those of the rank of captain or above are prohibited from claiming overtime. He did, however, claim compensatory leave time for the same hours.

While investigators’ focus will apparently be on the overtime charged by the four and the reasons for their side trip, there are several other aspects of the entire San Diego affair that should be considered:

  • Why was the original award nomination of Maj. Carl Saizan, a former State Trooper of the Year, pulled in favor of Edmonson?
  • Why was it necessary for so many State Police personnel to accompany Edmonson on this trip?
  • Why was Michelle Hyatt, the wife of Lt. Rodney Hyatt and a civilian non-LSP employee, allowed to accompany her husband in the State Police Ford Expedition on that cross-country trip? (The Expedition, by the way, is permanently assigned to Edmonson’s second-in-command, Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy.
  • Why was part-time student worker Brandon Blackburn paid 53.5 hours for attending the conference? And why was Brandon Blackburn, the son of the late Frank Blackburn, formerly the LSP legal counsel, allowed to travel to the conference on his father’s ticket?
  • Finally, since each of the 15 LSP personnel who accompanied Edmonson on the trip, were on the clock and were paid for attending the conference, how many of those personnel actually attended conference sessions for which they charged the state?

LouisianaVoice has made inquiry of IACP for attendance lists for the various sessions but we received the expected response: “We do not provide attendance records or make any information about our attendees publically available.”

Of course, the DOA investigation is barely underway so it’ll be some time yet before any determination is made regarding Edmonson’s future.

One LouisianaVoice reader made an interesting observation when he said in an email to us this morning that the LSP superintendent’s position “is a job needing turnover every so often to avoid a J. Edgar Hoover situation.”

But should the governor decide that Edmonson has embarrassed his administration one too many times and that he must go, it’s crucial that he make the correct choice in selecting a successor—and not listen to the sheriffs and chiefs of police. He—and this is critical—must be his own man in making that decision.

If he simply drops down the chain of command a notch and names Dupuy, Lt. Col. Jason Starnes, or Maj. Beckett Breaux, nothing will have changed.

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Superintendent of State Police Mike Edmonson just cannot help himself. He can’t.

While he stood in front of the TV cameras and said he is ultimately accountable for the state of chaos his office finds itself in, he still refuses to accept responsibility for specific actions.

Back in 2014, when LouisianaVoice first became aware of Edmonson’s ability for deception through the latest revelations about his usurping an award from one of the most respected State Troopers in Louisiana, he has repeatedly attempted to shift blame onto others.

And while I am by no means qualified as a psychologist or a psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Vaknin, in his book Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited, classifies this behavior as a form of narcissism. More about that later but first, let’s examine the brief history of our coverage of Edmonson and Louisiana State Police (LSP).

  • In the closing minutes of the 2014 legislative session, State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), an announced candidate for State Treasurer, slipped an amendment onto an otherwise benign, obscure bill that would have increased Edmonson’s retirement by some $55,000 per year. Riser (did we mention he’s a candidate for State Treasurer) assured fellow legislators that the bill had no economic impact and the bill with the attached amendment sailed through with even then State Rep. John Bel Edwards voting in favor.

LouisianaVoice received an anonymous tip about the ruse and broke the story and the backlash was immediate. Edmonson, as his emerging behavioral traits would reveal over time, disavowed any knowledge of the effort by then Capt. Jason Starnes, though it’s absurd to think Starnes would ever attempt such a move without the blessings of his boss. Edmonson, in fact, later admitted that he was aware of the amendment and did, in fact, give the go-ahead to Starnes.

Starnes, meanwhile, has seen his career skyrocket. His salary has gone from $59,800 as a lieutenant to his current salary of $150,750, an increase of 152 percent. Most recently, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and given a $25,000 raise—after Edmonson assured the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) in August that the creation of the post of supervisor of management and finance would not incur any additional costs.

  • When LouisianaVoice learned that the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) had laundered campaign contributions to various politicians through the personal bank account of the LSTA executive director, Edmonson again denied any involvement. But how many really believe the LSTA would act of its own accord in approving campaign contributions?
  • Edmonson also denied that he asked the LSTA to write a letter to Governor-elect John Bel Edwards in December 2015 endorsing Edmonson for reappointment to lead state police for another four years. LSTA ultimately ditched the idea, but how did it come up in the first place? Edmonson desperately wanted to hold onto the job and sources say his denial notwithstanding, he requested the LSTA to write such a letter.
  • Now he’s claiming he had no knowledge of the side trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon taken by four troopers as they drove Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy’s state vehicle to San Diego for the convenience of Edmonson.

Yet, there was his signature on the expense report of Maj. Derrell Williams, head of Internal Affair, who was the senior officer of the four who drove the vehicle. So how could he have not known?

  • His explanation? It was a signature stamp affixed to the report by his secretary. Not his fault, in other words.

Seriously, Mike? You’ve already thrown the four who drove Dupuy’s Ford Expedition at your direction under the bus. Now you’re going to throw your secretary under the bus as well?

We’re beginning to detect a disturbing trend here.

At least you admitted that Michelle Hyatt, wife of Lt. Rodney Hyatt, was a civilian passenger in the Expedition along with the four troopers in that cross-country jaunt. It’s going to be interesting to see how you manage to shift that responsibility onto your subordinates.

Now, back to Dr. Sam Vaknin and his book about narcissism. Among his descriptions of narcissistic behavior:

  • A “consummate manipulator of human emotions.”
  • Convincing, deviously successful.
  • Uses anything and anyone to secure his dose of “narcissistic supply” and discards, without hesitation those he deems “useless.”
  • They disguise their behavior in order to “humiliate, create dependence, intimidate, restrain, control and paralyze.”
  • They employ “very simple” deceptive mechanisms to achieve their goals.
  • He usually is unaware of why he is doing what he is doing and is generally unable to predict the outcomes of his actions and is “powerless” to modify his behavior.
  • He is unable to determine why he does what he does or why he chooses one mode of action over other available under the same circumstances.

GEORGE SIMON, Ph.D., puts another way:

  • When they blame others for their wrongful acts, it’s simply an attempt to justify their stance by casting themselves as being in a position where they simply had no choice but to respond the way they did. In this way, they simultaneously evade responsibility as well as manipulate and manage the impressions of others. The tactic goes hand in hand with the tactic of portraying oneself as a victim. It’s typically an effective tactic that gets others to pay attention to everyone or everything else except the disordered character and his wrongful behavior as the source of a problem.

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Gov. John Bel Edwards has ordered an investigation of that Las Vegas trip by four State Troopers.

The Trooper Underground has commissioned a poll of State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s job performance.

Louisiana State Police (LSP) insiders confide that Edmonson is more nervous than he’s been since that attempt in 2014 to slide a bill amendment through the legislature that would have given him a $55,000 per year increase in his retirement income.

Want a good laugh in the meantime? When asked about his signature on the expense forms submitted by Derrell Williams, one of the four who drove the vehicle, Edmonson said (are you ready for this?) he allows his assistant to approve/look over this stuff and use his signature stamp.

hard-at-work-at-torrey-pines

And yet….and yet, no one has addressed that tacky action of yanking the nomination of a highly respected former Trooper of the Year so that Edmonson could stand in for the award in the company of a gaggle of his inner circle who made the trip to San Diego with him for the ceremony.

And while there has been plenty focus on the overtime pay claimed by the four who drove an unmarked State Police car to San Diego via Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, little attention has been given the salaries paid the others who attended the conference at which Edmonson was honored. And even less attention has been given to how Michelle Hyatt, wife of Lt. Rodney Hyatt and a civilian, was allowed to ride in the Expedition on that trip in violation of state regulations.

working-hard-at-the-searsucher-san-diego

San Diego’s nice this time of year

These five guys on the clock?

Why aren’t they at the IACP conference?

In fact, it appears that officials at LSP have circled the wagons as records promised by Public Information Officer Maj. Doug Cain have not been forthcoming.

Gov. Edwards Monday ordered an INVESTIGATION by the Division of Administration (DOA) into (you know someone was going to say it) LSP Travelgate. The investigation will be conducted by DOA auditors.

While the investigation will begin with the San Diego trip, Richard Carbo, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said auditors would look for patterns and “keep going further back if they find additional information.”

It could, however evolve into a good news-bad news scenario:

In what has to be encouraging to Edmonson’s critics, Carbo said the DOA investigation would be conducted apart from an internal investigation ordered by Edmonson, who has opposed efforts to bring in outside investigators to review the Las Vegas trip for possible criminal wrongdoing.

Auditors may also look into presence a fifth passenger, a civilian, who also made the trip in the Ford Expedition permanently assigned to Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy. 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 on Facebook but has since taken them down. Those photos raised speculation, since confirmed by Edmonson, that she may have been a passenger in the vehicle, a violation of state policy.

The results of that nine-question SURVEY are certain to be interesting and will be published later this week.

Each question provides five possible answers. Without listing the answer choices, the questions include:

  • How effectively does Colonel Edmonson use company (agency) resources?
  • How much integrity does Colonel Edmonson have?
  • How consistently does Colonel Edmonson reward employees for good work?
  • How consistently does Colonel Edmonson punish employees for bad work?
  • How much trust to you have in Colonel Edmonson’s ability to make the right decisions?
  • How well do Colonel Edmonson’s priorities match up with the goals of your company (agency)?
  • How comfortable do you feel voicing your disagreement with Colonel Edmonson’s opinions?
  • How knowledgeable is Colonel Edmonson about the laws that matter to your company’s (agency’s) industry (field)?
  • Is Colonel Edmonson fit to lead the Louisiana State Police?

Optional: So that those taking the survey may verify that respondents are state employees, please provide your name. Names will remain strictly confidential, but if you are uncomfortable doing so, it is not required.

Optional: Provide any comments you wish to be provided to the media and the governor.

 

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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.

lacarte-bill-approved-by-edmonson

 

redacted-invoice

edmonsons-printed-name-and-signature

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.

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It’s a classic political maneuver whenever a public figure is in trouble: get out in front of the story and release it yourself to make yourself either the good guy or a sympathetic figure—whichever the situation dictates.

Take Superintendent of State Police Mike Edmonson, for example.

First, he yanks a national award intended for a former Trooper of the Year and gets himself nominated instead, which by most standards, is a really shoddy way to treat a subordinate.

The he invites 15 of his best friends, also LSP subordinates, with him to San Diego to watch him bask in the moment—at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) 123rd Annual Conference and Exposition held on October 15-18, 2016.

And he dispatches four of those to drive to California in an unmarked State Police SUV permanently assigned to his second in command, Charles Dupuy.

But when he realizes that LouisianaVoice, which has been working on this story for a couple of months now, and New Orleans TV investigative reporter Lee Zurik are planning to release a fairly critical story Monday night about his little escapade, he decides to beat them to the punch by going PUBLIC with his version of events.

But in doing so, this so-called “leader” callously tosses the four who drove the state vehicle under the bus while professing none too convincingly to be “embarrassed” by the whole affair. I mean, it’s a little difficult to be embarrassed when one of the four’s expenses for the trip was approved by Dupuy.

So much for the Loyalty part of that “Courtesy, Loyalty, Service” motto of the Louisiana State Police. If you’re going to give permission (as Edmonson did) for four men to drive to California and they take a state vehicle permanently assigned to your second in command, and that same second in command (Dupuy) signs off on the expenses of the senior member of the four (Williams), then it necessarily means that the top brass of Louisiana State Police (Edmonson, Dupuy, et al) were complicit and Edmonson can hardly discipline the four without coming down on Dupuy as well.

charles-dupuy

Sour grapes? You bet. No one likes being scooped on a story in which so much time and effort has been devoted. And this is not to be taken as criticism of The Advocate. In their shoes, I would not have done things any differently. And it’s certainly obvious that reporter Jim Mustian he did more than a little digging on his own as evidenced by his interview with a spokesman for the Metropolitan Crime Commission in New Orleans. We don’t begrudge participation of other media in a story such as this. Indeed, we welcome it. News is the exclusive domain of no one.

But it’s also just as evident that Edmonson had his PR machine cranked up full tilt in a desperate act of damage control.

He allowed those four State Troopers to make the trip in a State Police vehicle, a Ford Expedition—because, he said, it represented a savings to State Police. That was less than two months before he testified before members of the House Committee on Appropriations on December 6, 2016, that his department was in dire need of 658 additional VEHICLES (Scroll to the 7:40 point in the proceedings).

And he did it all on the state dime.

717,200 state dimes, to be precise, or as close as we can come, given the information provided by LSP was incomplete. That comes to at least $71,720 in taxpayer funds as the LSP assemblage partied even as the state barreled headlong toward yet another budgetary shortfall.

Gov. John Bel Edwards only last week issued a call for a 10-day SPECIAL SESSION of the legislature in an attempt to address a projected $304 million budget hole. That session began Monday at 6:30 p.m. and is scheduled to end by midnight, Feb. 22.

It’s not as though Edmonson needed validation badly enough to yank the honor from one of his subordinates. He has, after all, won other major awards:

  • FBI Washington DC, Top 25 Police Administrators Award, 2009
  • Sheriff Buford Pusser National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award, 2013
  • Human Trafficking, Faces of Hope Award, 2013
  • Inner City Entrepreneur (ICE) Institute—Top Cop Award, 2013
  • American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators Martha Irwin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Highway Safety, 2014
  • New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, Captain Katz Lifetime Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Safety, 2015.

Edmonson’s expenses were paid by IACP as the organization’s “honored guest,” according to LSP Maj. Doug Cain, and the travel and lodging expenses of Lafargue, who submitted expense claims only for $366 in meals (though he did turn in a time sheet so he could be paid for attending the event), were apparently picked up by the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) as best we can determine.

Cain said the reason so many personnel made the trip was because there were two other national conferences being held simultaneously: the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies (ASCIA), and the National Safety Council Annual Conference. Edmonson said the conference is an annual event and was included in the LSP budget.

But that didn’t prevent everyone involved from taking time to party hardy. This happy hour group photo was snapped at a San Diego watering hole.

san-diego-happy-hour

That’s Mike Edmonson right up front, on the left. Third from left is his wife and standing behind him on the third row in the yellow shirt is his brother, State Police Maj. Paul Edmonson. When LouisianaVoice requested a list of those who traveled to San Diego, Paul Edmonson’s name was conveniently omitted from the list. Yet, here he is.

The entire affair more closely resembled a frat party than a professional function, given the side trip to Vegas and the barroom fellowship.

Here is the announcement of Edmonson’s award from the Louisiana State Police Facebook page:

Following a nomination process that included numerous highway and public safety leaders from across the country, Louisiana State Police Superintendent Colonel Mike Edmonson was awarded the “J. Stannard Baker Award for Highway Safety.” Colonel Edmonson was honored with the prestigious award during the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Annual Conference which was held from October 15-18, 2016 in San Diego, CA. The IACP Annual Conference has a reputation for providing quality education on pressing law enforcement topics, and at this year’s conference Colonel Edmonson served on a panel of law enforcement leaders from across the nation to discuss topics such as community and training.

At each year’s IACP Annual Conference, the J. Stannard Baker award is presented to recognize law enforcement officers and others who have made outstanding lifetime contributions to highway safety. The award is sponsored by the IACP, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety. For an individual to receive this award, they must be nominated by a law enforcement agency or other traffic safety group or official. They must also be a full time law enforcement officer of a state, county, metropolitan, or municipal agency or be an individual who has made a significant lifetime contribution to highway safety.

The IACP is a professional association for law enforcement worldwide. The IACP actively supports law enforcement through advocacy, outreach, and education. By establishing partnerships across the public safety spectrum, the IACP provides members with resources and support in all aspects of law enforcement policy and operations. The organization helps members to perform their jobs safely and effectively, while also educating the public on the role of law enforcement to help build sustainable community relations.

The glowing news release, however, does not tell the complete story.

Sources close to the story have told LouisianaVoice that New Orleans State Police Maj. Carl Saizan, a 33-year State Police veteran and former Louisiana State Trooper of the Year, was originally nominated for the award but that the nomination had to pass through Edmonson for his stamp of approval. Instead, Saizan’s nomination was mysteriously scratched in favor of….Edmonson. Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson ultimately signed off on Edmonson’s nomination.

Repeated efforts to contact Saizan for a comment were unsuccessful but LouisianaVoice was told he was not a happy camper about Edmonson’s snub. In fact, he may well have voiced his displeasure to Edmonson because he has since been removed as Region One Patrol Commander over Troop A (Baton Rouge), Troop B (New Orleans) and Troop L (Mandeville) and placed over only Troop N, which is exclusively New Orleans.

Edmonson, for his part, denied any knowledge of Saizan’s nomination. “I don’t know anything about anyone else being nominated,” he said in a telephone interview on February 13. “This was a lifetime achievement award based on my 37 years with State Police, mainly my last nine years as Superintendent,” he said.

Maj. Doug Cain, LSP Public Information Officer, told LouisianaVoice that he submitted Edmonson’s name for nomination for the award in “early May” of 2016 but a chain of emails received by LouisianaVoice indicates that saizan’s nomination was in the works as early as April 7. That timeline coincides with the story we received that upon receiving communication that Saizan was being nominated, Edmonson, or someone on his behalf—and certainly with his blessing—decided that he and not Saizan should be the nominee.

Here is Cain’s email:

From: Doug Cain
Sent: Saturday, February 18, 2017 9:28 PM
To: Tom Aswell
Subject: Re: QUESTION

I submitted app early May.  Don’t know exact date off the top of my head.

For those who may not recall, remember in June of 2014, State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) tried to sneak an amendment onto a bill literally during the closing minutes of the regular legislative session that would have pumped up Edmonson’s retirement benefits by about $55,000 per year. In case you don’t remember, Edmonson feigned ignorance of that maneuver as well, saying he had no knowledge of any such attempt only to later admit differently that he gave the go-ahead to the attempt in the full knowledge he had chosen to lock in his retirement years earlier and that that decision was supposed to be “irrevocable.”

So someone acts on Edmonson’s behalf to benefit him and he then attempts to distance himself from the action by claiming ignorance.

Does anyone see a pattern here?

LouisianaVoice received corroboration of the Saizan story from six independent sources, all from law enforcement veterans—three active and three of whom are retired.

The 15 “guests,” along with their salaries, who traveled to California to witness the presentation at the three-day International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in San Diego on October 16-18 were:

  • Derrell Williams, of Internal Affairs, $132,800 per year;
  • Col. Jason Starnes, recently promoted into the newly-created $150,750 per year unclassified position of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) to assist the Undersecretary in the administration of all programs and sections within the Office of Management and Finance. The job description states Chief Administrative Officer shall exercise the duties and responsibilities of the Office of Management and Finance in the absence of the Undersecretary at the direction of the Deputy Secretary. Perk – he receives Free housing at the State Police Headquarters compound (dorm) because he is separated;
  • Special Assistant Superintendent Charles Dupuy, Edmonson’s $161,300 per year alter-ego;
  • Paul Edmonson, Command Inspector of Special Investigations Section ($136,800). He is Mike Edmonson’s brother and was not included in the list provided by LSP of those making the trip but somehow showed up in a group photo of the contingent in a San Diego bar;
  • John W. Alario, son of Senate President John A. Alario, Jr., who pulls down $115,000 per year as Executive Director of the Louisiana Liquefied Petroleum Gas Commission;
  • Layne Barnum, Command Inspector, Criminal Investigations Division ($132,800);
  • Greg Graphia, Operational Development Section consists of the Planning, Public Affairs, and Research Units. The Section functions as staff for Mike Edmonson ($124,100);
  • Special Deputy Superintendent over Bureau of Investigations Murphy Paul ($150,750). The Bureau of Investigation is responsible for the investigation of criminal activity, intelligence gathering, and case and technical support in the State of Louisiana.
  • Chavez Cammon, Criminal Investigations Unit, New Orleans ($96,900);
  • Stephen Lafargue, Secretary-Treasurer of the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) and Bureau of Investigations for Troop D in Lake Charles ($112,300);
  • Rodney Hyatt, HQ President of the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) and Lt. of Operational Development Section ($99,800);
  • Master Trooper Thurman Miller, President of the Central States Troopers Coalition of Louisiana ($72,600);
  • Trooper Alexandr Nezgodinsky, Insurance Fraud Section, Baton Rouge ($50,900);
  • Charles McNeal, Investigative Support Section (ISS) LA-SAFE Director ($124,100);
  • Brandon Blackburn, an $18,700-per-year unclassified student/intern who is the son of the late Frank Blackburn who served as legal counsel to the Department of Public Safety (DPS). The younger Blackburn, along with his mother, Cindy Kreider Blackburn, and Mike Edmonson’s wife, Suzanne, paid their own expenses, records show.

With Edmonson, Dupuy and Starnes all in San Diego, it’s a good thing no major emergencies like floods, shootings or petro-chemical plant explosions occurred during their absence. But it nevertheless raises questions as to the wisdom of having the top three LSP administrators out of state at the same time. Cain, however, defended the decision, saying, Command and control is maintained 24/7.”

Yeah, like Bobby Jindal continued to run the state while campaigning for President in Iowa.

The decision to have LSP pay the salaries of such a large group of attendees, as well as travel, lodging, meal and conference registration expenses via state LaCarte credit cards, seems questionable enough. But the justification of having four troopers—Derrell Williams, Rodney Hyatt, Thurman Miller and Alexandr Nezgodinsky—drive a state vehicle from Baton Rouge to San Diego (with an overnight stopover in an expensive Las Vegas casino hotel)—was the most puzzling.

Miller is a member of the Retirement Board and President of the Central States Troopers Coalition of Louisiana, Inc. 

Traveling via Interstates 10 and 8 from Baton Rouge, the four would have had to go northwest from Phoenix about 250 miles for an overnight stay in Vegas and from there, 260 miles southwest to San Diego. The straight-line distance between Phoenix and San Diego via I-8, on the other hand, is 350 miles. That means the 510-mile detour taken by the four was about 160 miles longer than necessary.

The four logged seven days for the round trip—four days driving to California and three days on the return trip—plus the four days at the conference itself.

Not only did fuel for the trip cost $610.98, but the four troopers combined to log 249 total hours during the trip (12 hours per day each for three of the men except for the final day, when 11 hours were claimed by the same three) on their time sheets. Each man was paid for 56 regular hours (224 hours total) for the seven days on the road and for 27 hours each (81 total hours) in overtime pay for the trip. Each also was paid for attending the four-day conference, according to time sheets submitted by the troopers.

Maj. Derrell Williams was the only one of the four to claim no overtime for the 11 days that included the trip and the conference. That’s because those with the rank of captain or above cannot earn overtime pay. They can, however, earn straight compensatory time. His salary and expenses still came to $5,730.

Cain was asked for the justification for taking the vehicle and his email response was: More cost effective to transport 4 individuals and also provide local transportation in San Diego for departmental personnel.”

Edmonson likewise said by the time the cost of flying to San Diego and renting a car was tabulated, it was more economical to have the men drive.

But when their travel time (regular and overtime hours), meals and hotel bills were totaled, the cost of driving the vehicle came to more than $21,000, which does not appear to fit the “cost effective” justification given by Cain or Edmonson. In fact, each of the four could have flown first class for less than that. Edmonson said he would re-calculate the cost of driving the vehicle to California.

On Friday, he heaved the four men under the bus when he announced that they would be required to repay overtime claimed as well as hotel expenses for their overnight stay in Las Vegas. He said Maj. Catherine Flinchum who formerly worked in Internal Affairs, the section Williams now heads up, would conduct an investigation of the trip by the four men.

Interestingly, Williams’s supervisor who signed off on his $2,297.42 expense report was Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy, to whom the vehicle they drove is permanently assigned. That leaves unanswered the question of whether Edmonson’s investigation would extend to his second in command for approving the use of his vehicle and for approving the expenditures.

The bottom line here is that Edmonson knew of and approved taking the vehicle to San Diego and knew of the Las Vegas trip. His signature may not be on the approval for the expenses, but his fingerprints are all over this entire sordid affair. He owns it and no amount of public contrition can change that.

As for others who made the trip by auto, Capt. Gregory Graphia, who also was in San Diego, signed off on time sheets (including the overtime logged) of both Rodney Hyatt and Thurman Miller while Hyatt signed off on Alexandr Nezgodinsky’s time sheet even though he is not Nezgodinsky’s supervisor. A tight little incestuous circle of responsibility, to be sure.

Nezgodinsky, by the way, presents an interesting question in his own right. It seems he has been a State Trooper only since May 2014. So how did a trooper with so little seniority rate a free trip to San Diego? The answer to that may lie in the fact that he was a San Diego city police officer as late as 2012. Perhaps the Louisiana crowd needed a tour guide to the tourist hot spots.

As far as Cain’s somewhat questionable explanation of “local transportation for departmental personnel” goes, Enterprise, which has a contract with the state for discounted rates, still rents cars in San Diego.

One law enforcement official offered a third possible reason for taking the vehicle. “Any way you can check to see if booze for their private parties was transported out there?” he asked.

Cain denied that the Expedition transported anything other than the four troopers.

The total breakdown of costs to the state was almost evenly split between salaries and expenses, records show. Altogether, the salaries for all attendees came to nearly $34,800 and expenses for travel, lodging, registration and meals were $36,233, plus whatever unreported expenses were incurred by Paul Edmonson, according to incomplete records provided by LSP as a result of LouisianaVoice’s public records requests.

Among those costs were hotel bills far exceeding the maximum allowed by state travel guidelines. While several hotel bills were submitted for as much as $299 per night, state guidelines set a maximum limit of $126 per night for several listed cities, including San Diego.

Likewise, the $68-per-day limit for meals ($13 for breakfast, $19 for lunch and $36 for dinner) was routinely exceeded, sometimes just for breakfast. Three examples included meal expense statements of $60 and $72 for breakfast, $68 and $102 for lunch and $96, $120 and $193 for dinner.

redacted-starnes-invoice

redacted-edmonson-invoice

nezgodinsky-original-expenses

nezgodinsky-amended-expenses

hotel-bill

hyatt-expenses

Note the redaction of costs on several of the documents provided by LSP and the overtime hours charged.

The trip could prove embarrassing for the governor who recently posted on his office’s web page his PLAN to “stabilize the FY17 budget deficit of $304 million.”

Included in that plan:

  • No money in the FY17 budget for inflation or merit pay for state employees (so many years now that we’ve actually lost count but a good guess would be seven or eight years—but State Troopers have fared a little better, getting two recent raises that gave some officers increases as much as 50 percent. Those raises, by the way, did not apply to officers of the Department of Public Safety.);
  • No funds for flood related expenses.

Proposed cuts to specific programs included:

  • Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement—$251,674. The costs of the San Diego trip represented 28.5 percent of the cuts to this one program.
  • Louisiana Emergency Response Network Board—$27,625 (the San Diego trip cost two-and-one-half times this amount).
  • Office of State Police, Operational Support Program—$7.38 million;
  • Office of State Fire Marshal, Fire Prevention Program—$900,503;
  • Office of Juvenile Justice—$4.46 million;

Granted, $71,720 doesn’t represent a lot in the overall scheme of things when talking about a $304 million total deficit. Certainly not in any defense of Edmonson, but what if this is not an anomaly? What if this kind of fiscal irresponsibility is typical throughout state government?

If you have wastes of $71,720 here and $71,720 there, and $71,720 somewhere else, to paraphrase the late U.S. Senator from Illinois, Everett Dirksen, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

And remember, that $71,720 doesn’t include airfare, lodging and meals for Paul Edmonson since LSP failed to include him on the list of individuals who traveled to San Diego. Moreover, LSP initially provided expense records that redacted purchase amounts charged to the state LaCarte cards but later, pursuant to LouisianaVoice’s follow-up request, provided copies that were not redacted. But there were still no itemized receipts provided that showed what those purchases were.

Asked for the total cost of the trip, Cain responded, “I don’t have this figure; you have all the relevant documents.”

Well, given the deletion of Paul Edmonson from the guest list, not quite all.

Given the timing of this, the incredible waste of state resources, and the fact that the state continues to grapple with budgetary shortfalls, perhaps the time has finally come for Gov. Edwards to take somebody to the woodshed for a lesson in discretion.

Because, Governor, we’re all “embarrassed” by Edmonson’s repeated lapses in judgment.

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