U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) is asking the Louisiana Department of Revenue to collect taxes from former State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson for “fringe benefits” he received while serving as a cabinet secretary.
In a letter sent to revenue department Secretary Kimberly Robinson, Kennedy says Edmonson received taxpayer-funded perks that should be reported as taxable income, including free housing, utilities, cable television, electricity, dry cleaning and meals.
A draft legislative audit from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor obtained by the New Orleans Advocate claimed Edmonson used his position to live a life of luxury on the taxpayer's dime. The claims included that Edmonson lived rent-free at a Department of Public Safety compound, regularly using troopers to drive his wife around the state and using his LSP credit card to pay for thousands of dollars in questionable meals -- all possibly in violation of state law.
“Col. Edmonson is not above the law merely because he was a member of Gov. Edwards’ cabinet,” Kennedy writes. “In fact, he took on an added responsibility as a public servant to conduct himself with honor and honesty.”
Kennedy adds that Edmonson cannot be allowed to shirk his tax obligations while Louisiana families and businesses must pay a higher tax burden.
“At least you can do is demand that his [Edwards’] cabinet appointees pay their taxes,” Kennedy writes.
Byron Henderson, the Public Information Director for the La. Department of Revenue said their office is prohibited by law from talking about any investigations or people's individual tax burdens.
Governor Edwards' staff responded to Kennedy Wednesday calling the letter "politics as usual."
"Sen. Kennedy is not one to pass up an opportunity to get a headline. We welcome any interest in making government more transparent and strive to protect and honor the taxpayers. However, it is worth noting that Sen. Kennedy was treasurer under Gov. Jindal for 8 years when this agreement was put into place, but said absolutely nothing," said Richard Carbo, Deputy Chief of Staff for Edwards.
The governor's office said they plan to follow the law about Edmonson's tax bill and that they will await the final audit report before taking any action.
Read the full letter from Sen. Kennedy below:
December 13, 2017
Dear Secretary Robinson:
I am requesting that you collect unpaid state income taxes from former State Police Supt. Mike Edmonson. It is clear from the draft of the state Legislative Auditor's Office report obtained by news media that Col. Edmonson received taxpayer-funded perks that constituted taxable income. The perks included free housing, utilities, cable television, electricity, dry cleaning and meals. These are fringe benefits, and Col. Edmonson should have calculated their fair market value and reported them as taxable income.
Col. Edmonson is not above the law merely because he was a member of Gov. Edwards' cabinet. In fact, he took on an added responsibility as a public servant to conduct himself with honor and honesty. He also cannot be allowed to shirk his tax obligations when Louisiana families and businesses are struggling with a higher tax burden.
As you know, the Edwards administration convinced the Legislature to raise well over $1 billion in new taxes and fees last year, and Governor Edwards asked for another tax increase this year, all at a time when our oil and gas industry is in a depression and we have one of the highest unemployment rates in America. The least you can do is demand that his cabinet appointees pay their taxes.
United States Senator