BATON ROUGE, La. — A former head of the Louisiana State Police is accused of deleting text messages amid an investigation of allegations that troopers improperly billed for thousands of dollars in overtime and expenses during a road trip, according to a newly released police report.
Before his retirement in March after nine years as state police superintendent, Mike Edmonson publicly condemned a pricey side trip to Las Vegas that several troopers took during their drive to a law enforcement conference in California last October. Edmonson claimed he hadn’t approved the side trip.
But a state police report, obtained by The Advocate through a public records request, says cellphone records show Edmonson was in contact with the troopers throughout their trip and received photographs of them sightseeing at the Hoover Dam in Nevada.
The report also says Edmonson took a cellphone from Rodney Hyatt, a trooper who had been on the road trip, and altered its settings so it would purge any text messages older than 30 days.
“Lt. Hyatt explained the settings feature was set to keep text messages forever until Colonel Edmonson changed it,” Capt. David McClendon wrote in the internal affairs report. “Therefore, he had no (texts or messages) on his phone from 2016.”
However, investigators recovered text messages from a cellphone belonging to Hyatt’s wife. They showed Edmonson stayed in contact with troopers during their cross-country drive. In one message, Edmonson said it appeared the group was “having fun.”
Efforts to reach Edmonson on Thursday weren’t immediately successful.
In a statement Thursday, state police Maj. Doug Cain said: “We as well as the public are aware of the ongoing audits and inquiries into our agency. We continue to offer our full cooperation and we are confident that at the appropriate time all of the facts will be made public and the appropriate action will be taken. This continues to be an ongoing process.”
Hyatt was recently demoted for submitting falsified time sheets from the road trip and disregarding other state police policies.
The report shows Edmonson announced his decision to retire one day after internal investigators briefed him about “several concerns” they had about the troopers’ side trip. The meeting where Edmonson allegedly altered settings on Hyatt’s phone also occurred one day before his retirement announcement.
Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered an audit of state police travel practices after The Advocate published an initial report on the troopers’ Las Vegas side trip. The state legislative auditor’s office hasn’t released the results of that separate investigation.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com