BATON ROUGE, La. — With his agency embroiled in controversy over allegations of taxpayer-funded vacations and more than a dozen troopers subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury, a well-placed source says Louisiana State Police Commander Colonel Mike Edmonson will announce plans to retire Wednesday.
" After meeting again with the Governor today, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the state that I retire from my position as Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Superintendent of State Police. The Governor has never asked that I step down. As our discussions continued today, I have come to believe that my moving aside will permit the governor and the state to move forward," Edmonson said in a statement.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Edmonson said he will retire from the job he's held for nine years, after coming under increasing criticism for his leadership of the agency.
"Today, after careful consideration and many discussions regarding the future of the state police, Col. Edmonson notified me of his retirement. Together, we believe this is the best approach for the department," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Sen. John Kennedy, who called for Edmonson to resign, also issued a statement in the wake of Edmonson's retirement. “Col. Edmonson made the right decision in retiring, and I thank him for his service. Unfortunately, his leadership had become a distraction during difficult times for Louisiana. I encourage the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office and the Division of Administration to continue their investigations into out-of-state travel by State Police so that much needed reforms can be made to safeguard taxpayer dollars.”
Col. Mike Edmonson confirmed he is leaving to end the upheaval at the Department of Public Safety, according to AP. Edmonson also said Governor John Bel Edwards did not ask him to step down.
"I recognize that the Louisiana State Police is bigger than any one person. It is certainly bigger than Mike Edmonson. My desire is that making this decision will ultimately return a sense of normalcy to an agency with a very important mission and an incredibly proud history. I am certain that in his deliberations for selecting my replacement the governor will understand the importance of his decision and will make the right choice. I will support my successor in providing a smooth transition; the state deserves nothing less," Edmonson said.
Edmonson has held the post for nine years, longer than any other state police leader in Louisiana's history, given the post of Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Corrections is a political appointment from the Governor.
Former Governor Bobby Jindal first placed Edmonson at the helm of the state’s premier law enforcement agency in 2008, but Edmonson remained in the position after Bel Edwards was elected governor.
Even before his appointment as commander, Edmonson was a recognizable figure as the trooper assigned to be the bodyguard of all LSU football coaches dating back to the 1980's.
Just this week, more than a dozen state troopers received federal subpoenas to appear before a grand jury. Sources close to the investigation say the probe centers around how membership dues are collected and spent by the Louisiana State Troopers Association, or LSTA.
Almost all state troopers are LSTA members. The association is a labor, or benevolent organization, aimed at supporting its membership.
For example, when floods devastated a swath of Louisiana in 2016, the LSTA gave cash donations to active troopers whose homes were damaged.
But in a consent agreement, the LSTA and its Executive Director David Young admitted to the Louisiana Board of Ethics they have made campaign contributions to political candidates with Young writing the checks and the LSTA reimbursing him.
News of the grand jury investigation comes on the heels of investigative reports first by the New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV that four state troopers took a side trip to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas on their way to a conference in San Diego in which Edmonson received a national award.
Three of those troopers charged the state overtime for hours worked, even though drive time in the state-owned SUV they brought on the trip would have been far less than eight hours.
Records show Edmonson’s right-hand, Assistant Superintendent Charles Dupuy, signed off on the travel and allowed the four to drive his assigned SUV.
"Mike has been a good friend to the sheriffs across this state for a long, long time," said Jefferson Parish Newell Normand. "He been someone who sheriffs, myself included, respected. He was team player, a collaborator."