BATON ROUGE -- It's a war of words between Gov. John Bel Edwards and U.S. Sen. John Kennedy over media reports on former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.
Edmonson resigned in March amid scandal over wasteful spending by State Police on a taxpayer-funded trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
Since his resignation, The New Orleans Advocate has obtained a copy of a yet-to-be-released report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's Office that accuses Edmonson and his family of living rent-free at the Department of Public Safety compound and using prisoners to cook, clean and walk their family dog.
There are several scathing accusations outlined in the report, most of which point to Edmonson using his position as head of Louisiana State Police for personal gain.
Kennedy has sent a letter to the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue requesting that the state collect unpaid income taxes from Edmonson, who failed to include his free living and other fringe benefits on tax forms.
"Col. Edmonson is not above the law merely because he was a member of Gov. Edwards' cabinet," Kennedy said in the letter. "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 ... The least you can do is demand that his cabinet appointees pay their taxes," Kennedy continued.
But Edwards' office was quick with a comeback on Kennedy's attack, noting that Kennedy was state treasurer under former Gov. Bobby Jindal for eight years while all of this was happening.
The governor's office released the following statement in response to Kennedy's letter:
“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. This indicates that he’s not interested in protecting taxpayers, but rather playing politics as usual. With so much going on in Congress, like the reauthorization of CHIP that expired under his watch, you’d think he’d be focused on his own job. Our administration will follow the law, and we’ll await the final audit report.”