Louisiana State Police Travel Expenses, Former Superintendent's Use of Public Resources Questioned
An investigative audit into Louisiana State Police (LSP) operations found questionable travel expenses incurred by some troopers, improper use of public resources by former Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson and his family members, and possible violations of state law, the Louisiana Constitution, and the Internal Revenue Code.
Auditors began their investigation in March 2017 after receiving multiple legislative requests to audit LSP’s out-of-state travel. The audit work was expanded as the LLA received additional complaints from various sources, including the Metropolitan Crime Commission in New Orleans.
Auditors found that the Department of Public Safety (DPS), under which the LSP operates, spent $85,486 in public funds for 16 DPS employees to attend one or more conferences in San Diego in October 2016 – $34,131 in travel expenses and $51,355 for employees’ regular time and overtime.
In addition, auditors found that four troopers attending the conference failed to use the most cost-effective means of travel to get to San Diego, which resulted in DPS paying at least $12,997 more than was necessary. The same four troopers traveled in an LSP vehicle instead of flying, did not use the most direct route, and detoured to visit three popular tourist destinations, costing DPS an additional $5,607. Auditors found as well that three of the troopers were paid for hours they may not have worked and that all four incurred excessive hotel charges while driving to and from San Diego.
Also in connection with the San Diego trip, auditors found that a non-state employee was allowed to travel with the troopers who drove to the conference without properly documented authorization or having signed a required risk/hold harmless agreement to protect the state against liability. In addition, auditors noted that DPS does not have a centralized system for tracking actual out-of-state or conference travel expenses and cannot monitor the cost-effectiveness of sending employees to certain training events.
Auditors found as well that Col. Edmonson improperly used hotel rooms paid for by the City of New Orleans for troopers working during the 2013 to 2016 Mardi Gras seasons, which may be a violation of state law and the Louisiana Constitution. Records and interview statements showed Col. Edmonson obtained extra hotel rooms that were paid for by the City of New Orleans, either in his name or in the name of other LSP troopers; allowed friends and family to stay in those extra hotel rooms free of charge; and was reimbursed by LSP for a hotel room in 2014, even though the City had purchased a room for him at another hotel.
In addition, auditors found that Col. Edmonson had troopers run personal errands for him and his family and friends and perform services for nonprofit organizations with which he was affiliated during work hours. Such a use of public resources may be a violation of the Louisiana Constitution and state law.
Auditors also found that Col. Edmonson and his family lived at the DPS Compound without legal authority, which may be a violation of state law. Additionally, the benefit of living at the compound, which auditors estimated at $434,720 over the nine-year period from February 2008 to March 2017, was not reported as a taxable benefit to Col. Edmonson as required by the Internal Revenue Code.
Among this audit’s other findings:
· Col. Edmonson appeared to have received free meals from the DPS Cafeteria. Auditors also found that weaknesses in the cafeteria’s billing practices may have resulted in donations of meals.
LSP improperly allowed its training facilities to be used by certain DPS employees at no charge and without a public purpose, including several members of LSP management and the current Commissioner of the Office of Motor Vehicles.
· Col. Edmonson obtained a DPS credit card that he used to buy special meals without approval from the Division of Administration. Auditors were unable to find sufficient documentation demonstrating the business purpose of many of the meals.
· Col. Edmonson had DPS’ Fleet Operations personnel perform minor repairs, washing, and detailing services on his family members’ vehicles.
· Col. Edmonson and troopers assigned to the Governor’s Mansion used the Mansion’s free dry cleaning service for their uniforms and other clothing while also receiving a daily allowance from LSP to clean their uniforms.
For more information contact:
Daryl G. Purpera, CPA, CFE