Former LSP Col. Mike Edmonson’s final gift to Louisiana taxpayers: massive legacy pension costs resulting from questionably-legal 35% trooper pay raises.


Former LSP Col. Mike Edmonson, whose final downfall was an infamous “Las Vegas Side Trip,” as depicted above and who, after his 2014 failed “Edmonson Amendment” attempt to boost his own retirement pension by $55,000/year, left taxpayers with a parting gift of massive legacy pension costs for lofty LSP pensions resulting from his questionably-legal proposal to give a near-across-the-board 35%+ pay raise to LSP troopers.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  The detailed listing of 51 recently-retired LSP troopers and their corresponding itemized individual pension benefits provided near the end of this feature would not have been remotely possible without the dedication and determination of our sources within LSP.  We cannot sufficiently express our appreciation for the incredible time, the many phone calls, and the extensive networking they deployed to make the itemized list provided below possible.

On July 11, 2014, Louisiana Voice blogger Tom Aswell published what is likely his biggest blockbuster post of his career when he shocked taxpayers across Louisiana with this blog post focusing on a stealth attempt by former LSP Col. Mike Edmonson to boost his retirement pay by $55,000/year.

Believing that his advancement potential at LSP was limited (former Gov. Bobby Jindal would subsequently change that drastically), Edmonson, like many other state employees, entered the DROP program.  Under the program, a qualified state employee can continue working AND draw his retirement pension.  A major provision of DROP, however, is that the pension amount is frozen upon the decision to enroll in DROP.

Once Gov. Jindal appointed Edmonson as LSP Colonel, Edmonson quickly realized that he’d made a serious error in enrolling in DROP because his salary skyrocketed.  For several years, Edmonson sought ways to undo his DROP decision, and those efforts climaxed in the 2014 Legislative Session when State Sen. Neil Riser, in a move that has largely defined his entire legislative career (and most certainly not in a good way) agreed to insert an amendment into an otherwise benign bill dealing with LSP trooper rights, which would provide Edmonson with the massive pension boost.  Because the amendment specifically sought to benefit Edmonson (though one other Master Trooper was also impacted), it became known as the “Edmonson Amendment.”  The amendment was inserted into the bill as part of the Conference Committee process in the waning hours of the 2014 Legislative Session to iron out differences between the House and Senate.

When Aswell published his post, there was a massive taxpayer revolt, and the mainstream media, whom Aswell’s source either opted to bypass (likely figuring providing them the information would fall on deaf ears) or who got the material and did nothing with it (thus prompting the submission to Aswell), had an absolute field day.  Importantly, there were six (6) members of the Conference Committee referenced above, and the media (and most especially the late political blogger C. B. Forgotston) were demanding to know which legislator sponsored the absurd amendment.  All six denied sponsoring the amendment; however, Fox 8’s Lee Zurik published a feature (we’d provide the link, but it’s been taken down), clearly identifying Riser as the culprit.

Former blogger C. B. Forgotston, who was openly encouraging Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns to form his own video-based blog, appealed to Burns to attend the Baton Rouge Press Club (BRPC) meeting of July 24, 2014 and, if no other media outlet posed the question, that Burns pose the question of then-Gubernatorial-candidate Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) for his calls for an investigation regarding the so-called “Edmonson Amendment.”  Just as Forgotston predicted, not a single member of the mainstream media questioned Edwards on the amendment, so with nine minutes to go before the BRPC meeting was to conclude, Burns posed the question of Edwards who, ironically and probably anticipating just such a question, had to literally thank Burns for posing the question.  Here’s the video of Edwards’ take on the whole matter:

  Edwards addresses Burns’ question regarding Edwards’ statements that he would request an investigation of the whole matter of the “Edmonson Amendment.”

We really can’t understate just how dogmatic and determined Edmonson was to get that $55,000/year pension boost.  As evidence of same, let’s consider that Edmonson, appearing on the Jim Engster show literally mere hours before Burns posed the preceding question of Edwards, defiantly stated that he was “fully entitled” to the retirement boost.  Let’s examine just what he had to say:


Edmonson defiantly expresses his “entitlement” to receive the $55,000 pension boost.

It’s also important to emphasize just how out-of-touch and delusional Edmonson was regarding his popularity.  To demonstrate that, let’s consider his brief response to Engster’s question regarding speculation Edmonson may run for Lieutenant Governor in 2015:


Edmonson addresses “speculation” that he may run for Lt. Governor in 2015.

As most Sound Off Louisiana subscribers know by now, State Sen. Dan Claitor, in filing his own lawsuit as a private taxpaying citizen, challenged the “Edmonson Amendment,” with the result being that it was quickly declared by the court to be unconstitutional.

Why have we rehashed this history?  We did so in order to lay the foundation for the first of a two-part series regarding Edmonson’s desperate attempt to recover from the extreme animosity he found himself enduring from rank-and-file LSP Troopers from the actions outlined above.

To try to recover from the Edmonson Amendment fallout, Edmonson proposed what amounted to a near-uniform across-the-board pay raise for LSP Troopers of 35%+.  Edmonson, being the snake-oil salesman that he is, sold the concept on the premise that it would “not cost taxpayers a dime.”

How so?  As Edmonson explained it to Louisiana Legislators, who were either sufficiently ignorant or sufficiently indifferent to the fact that what he was saying made absolutely no sense whatsoever, that the money to cover the pay raise would come from a new aggressive initiative to collect on a stated massive level of uncollected DMV fines.

Now, any astute Louisiana Legislator, of which there seems to be a total dearth at that Capitol building, should have responded, “Oh, so let me get this straight!  You’ve got this massive pile of uncollected DMV fines that you guys have apparently been willing to sit on your posteriors and let accumulate (the figure was stated to approach $500 million!) but, provided we enact your proposed 35% increase in pay, what you’re telling us is that, by God, you’ll go to work on collecting?  Is THAT what you’re testifying to before this Committee, Col. Edmonson?”

Instead, what transpired was the legislators, for whatever reason, seemed to marvel at how Edmonson could come up with this means to pay for the massive raise “without costing Louisiana taxpayers a dime.”

So, with then-Gov. Bobby Jindal off in England in an ill-advised attempt to educate the fine folk over there about Sharia law and Edmonson essentially left to run the State of Louisiana back home, Edmonson basically threw together on a napkin (only a slight exaggeration) an ill-conceived, poorly vetted, proposal to boost many LSP Troopers’ pay by 35%+.  The Louisiana Legislature, as just indicated, simply acceded to Edmonson’s slapped-together proposal, and it was “off to the races” on LSP pay raises!  Nobody bothered to question why LSP had been so passive on collecting the historical fines.  Nobody bothered with questioning the fact Edmonson was advocating paying a recurring cost (the pay raises) using one-time money (collection on a reported massive buildup in unpaid DMV fines).

No sooner did DMV/LSP begin the “aggressive collection efforts” than did problems arise.  WAFB (Channel 9 in Baton Rouge) even ran a news feature explaining how the unpaid fine level was vastly inflated because many of the fines were for folk who’d left the state and simply didn’t bother with informing DMV that they no longer owned or operated vehicles in Louisiana.  In the feature, one gentleman was interviewed after having just driven down from Missouri to clear up his “bogus fine.”  WAFB interviewed several other recipients of typical shake-down, threatening letters who expressed their extreme anger at being on the receiving end of these erroneous letters.

Well, the aforementioned raises took effect in the middle of 2015 and, as many Sound Off Louisiana subscribers may know, a state employee’s final pension is a function of the highest three-year average compensation for that employee.  So, since the raise took effect in the middle of 2015, guess what happened in the middle of 2018?  Yep!  Absolutely MASSIVE retirements of LSP troopers!  Sound Off Louisiana was contacted by several retirees fed up with going years and years with no COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) and asked if we could research the size of these LSP retirees’ pensions.

Let us first say that, as a result of our Shelley Sebastian series (on which we’ll have another installment in the very near future), we began reviewing recent meetings of the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS).  In doing so, we uncovered the fact that, while the system expected around 50 LSP troopers to retire in 2018, they actually had 128 such retirements.  Obviously, once the retirement formula had been sufficiently goosed compliments of Edmonson, many long-time troopers, with their golden-parachute exorbitant pensions now safe and secure (and Constitutionally protected) said, “See ‘ya!”  In fact, audio of a recent LSPRB meeting included its Executive Director, Irwin Felps, Jr., expressing some concern regarding the system’s liquidity in light of the higher-than-expected level of retirements.  Nevertheless, he indicated that the system has sufficient short-term investments that it can liquidate to cover the massive payouts that the system is now having to shell out.

Now for, as they say, the “nitty gritty.”   Just how much are these pensions, and who all are drawing these exorbitant pensions?  In order to answer that question, we made public records request of the LSPRB for all retirements from 2015 to the date of our request.  LSPRB obliged in supplying a list (with names redacted) of all such retirements.  We met with some of the concerned long-time retirees (those folk who haven’t received a COLA in years), and a decision was made to remove the 10-12 troopers who left with less than 20 years of service because they aren’t considered true career LSP troopers, and most likely left in frustration at all the turmoil at LSP and sought to pursue other career opportunities.  With that caveat stated, here’s the list of all LSP Trooper retirements (those with over 20 years service), their monthly pensions, and their number of years of service.  The following table summarizes our findings:

Average Final Salary: $8,518.03/month, or $102,216.36/year.
Average Years' Service: 28.22 years.
Average Pension: $7,662.98/month, or $91,955.76/year.

In consultation with some of the LSP troopers who have been retired for extended periods (i.e. decades), some of whom expressed frustration that their ANNUAL pension is less than some of these recently-retired troopers obtain in a MONTH, and by their extensive networking efforts, tireless telephone calls, and willingness to coordinate and collaborate  with us, we have been able to draw inferences on some of the entries in the table LSPRB provided to us as to who these troopers are and what their annual pensions are.  Let’s provide a table of such logical inferences on these troopers’ part by providing an itemized listing by name of recently-retired LSP Troopers who have pensions of $100,000/year or more at this time:

Recently-Retired TrooperAnnual Pension
Mark Abshire$102,991.
Stacey Barrett$121,212.
Richard Blanchard$115,690.
Becket Breaux, currently candidate for St. Martin Parish
Sheriff
$140,890.
Wilson Bulloch$104,138.
Daniel Casonova$105,148.
Terry Chustz$131,547.
Paul Clark$103,922.
Richard Cooke$114,930.
James Cormier$106,749
William Davis$131,673
Gregory Ducharme$108,045
Frank Ducote$123,418
Charlie Dupuy, long-stated to be the actual Colonel running the show with Edmonson merely a figurehead.$145,427.
Col. Mike Edmonson$143,639 (that's even WITHOUT the attempted $55,000/year boost!)
Gregg Falgout$115,690.
Cathy Flincham$114,007.
Danny Franklin$115,414.
Eric Frazier$118,334.
James Hicks$119,161.
Michael Jewell$105,895.
Jeffrey Johnson$101,117.
John Jones$102,372.
David Ledee$102,300.
Troy Leonard$104,697.
Julie Lewis$108,483.
Tommy Lewis
who was cited by Mississippi authorities for sneaking an underage female (not
his wife) into the Ameristar Casino in Vicksburg
Quote from the preceding article: "He was subsequently promoted to commander of Troop F by State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson."
$131,673.
Tom Madden$117,155.
Kevin Manuel$104,826.
Roy McDonald$115,488.
Mark Mix$114,832.
Allen Moss$129,446.
Michael Neal$101,766.
Michael Parker$114,566.
Murphy Paul,
who was named Baton Rouge Police Chief
$129,587.
Gregory Pharis$102,244.
Anthony Pitts$121,108.
Nigel Raphael$104,697.
Stephen Robinson$128,106.
Ray Schexnayde$140,271.
Lionel Sibley$104,697.
Glenn Staton$147,465.
Dennis Stewart$104,697.
Charron Thomas$109,858.
Joel Toloudis$114,832.
Buzzy Trahan$106,608.
O'Neal Wascom$108,497.
Jeffrey Watts$115,690.
Jeffrey White$113,334.
Bryson Williams$140,890.
Martin Zaunbreche$103,723.

Although the above table illustrates only the “$100,000+ Honor Roll of Recently-Retired LSP Troopers,” one of our sources for the list above also asked that we give “Honorable Mention” to retired LSP Trooper John Cannon, who was cited for an entire litany of reprehensible conduct for an LSP Trooper, to wit:

Louisiana Troop A State Police Lieutenant John Cannon remains on his $115,690 per year job despite having been reprimanded for numerous offenses including theft of satellite television signals, failure to file required Daily Activity Reports (DARs), unauthorized voiding of traffic tickets, failure to investigate a fleet crash, failure to deliver fatality packets to the families of traffic fatality victims, and twice having sex with a woman while on duty—with one of those times being in the rear seat of his patrol unit.

So, we’re only too happy to oblige:

Retired LSP Trooper John Cannon, Annual Pension:  $83,372.

 

Perhaps upon our readers seeing this material, they’ll obtain a much better understanding of why we were so incredulous at former Rep. Ponti and current Rep. (and candidate for State Senate) Carter’s calls for us to “demand legislator accountability” to raise gasoline taxes in order to fund highway and road construction and repair when they, along with the rest of the Legislature, were so cavalier in transferring $600 million in Highway Trust Fund money to fund the type of largess bestowed upon LSP as outlined above.  That’s to say nothing of the John Alario-related cronyism and nepotism the Legislature so willingly funded for Alario’s family members to have such cushy jobs as a higher priority than spending the $600 million on the highway construction and repair for which we paid the money!

Was there anybody making any attempt to curtail some the abuses outlined in this obvious manipulation of LSP’s retirement formula?  Well, in reading paragraphs 20 and 21 of former Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) Executive Director Cathy Derbonne’s lawsuit, she avers that she alerted authorities that the above raises were illegal.  Of course, we all know that she was rewarded for her efforts, at least according to her lawsuit’s statements purportedly made by Gov. Edwards’ Gaming Board Chairman, Ronnie Jones, by being told by Jones that, “Gov. Edwards’ office (perhaps Edwards himself?) had told her to ‘shut the f— up'” (see paragraph 17 of the previously-linked petition).

Is Edmonson’s managerial style being continued?  It would certainly appear that may well be the case based upon extensive blowback we know transpired entailing Reeves’ recent promotions of upper LSP brass who approved his son Kaleb’s appointment to an Investigator position.

Want another kick in the pants?  How about this:  While workers in private industry are fully taxed upon their pensions by the State of Louisiana, the $100,000+ LSP pensions outlined above are 100% exempt from Louisiana income taxes!

So, while teachers are expected to get on hands and knees and bow in praise and adoration of Gov. Edwards for the “modest but meaningful” $1,000/year raise he proposes for them, the Louisiana Legislature (of which Gov. Edwards is a former member during the time in question these raises were awarded) cavalierly awarded absolutely massive LSP pay raises that now stick taxpayers for ungodly amounts of required payments to the LSP retirement pension in order to meet the Constitutional mandate that these exorbitant pensions be paid for the duration of these LSP retirees’ lifetimes!  In that respect, they have saddled either Republican Gubernatorial candidate Rispone or Abraham with a massive taxpayer legacy cost about which neither can do zilch about should he become Louisiana’s next Governor!

In conclusion, in part two of this installment, we’ll examine one state representative’s efforts to attempt to make LSP troopers and other state workers much more responsible for funding their own retirements (but with generous matching contributions from the State of Louisiana) by gradually shifting state retirement systems away from a defined BENEFIT program (wherein the type of abuses outlined above are so easy to pull off) to a defined CONTRIBUTION program under which such blatant manipulation of retirement formulas for the sole purpose of screwing taxpayers is far more difficult (and can be made impossible if the legislation is drafted correctly).  In that feature, we’ll have some intriguing video footage from a recent LSPRB meeting depicting some of those LSPRB members’ choice words for the legislator who sponsored the initiative in the 2019 Legislative session.

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One thought on “Former LSP Col. Mike Edmonson’s final gift to Louisiana taxpayers: massive legacy pension costs resulting from questionably-legal 35% trooper pay raises.”

  1. The Louisiana legislators and the Louisiana state police commissioners are much like Nancy Pelosi they pass it to see whats in it. The State Police Commission needs to be abolished and the duties reverted back to the Civil Service Commission. The State Police Commission at present does not have the staff or funding to comply with the Louisiana State Constitution. The Commissioners meet on average once a month for an hour or two and make decisions that affect this state for years to come, whereas the State Civil Service has a complete staff to vet, research , investigate and do complete studies before making recommendations to the Louisiana State Civil Service Commission.

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