March 14, 2017 12:08 AM
Louisiana's legislative auditor said Monday he will review years of taxpayer-funded travel by the state police, after concerns raised about thousands spent on a trip to a law enforcement conference in California.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said he'll look into the spending in response to a letter from Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath.

Miguez requested the audit after The Advocate newspaper reported the state police shelled out thousands of dollars in overtime and expenses for several troopers who drove to the October conference in San Diego with a state SUV, diverting to a Las Vegas casino resort and the Grand Canyon on the way.

Louisiana State Police
"I welcome any review of this," said Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of the state police. "The legislative auditor has always been extremely helpful."

Since the newspaper report, Gov. John Bel Edwards said his administration has an auditor digging into the travel spending and policies of the state police, saying information about the California trip "obviously concerns me."

But Miguez said he also wants an independent audit, since the governor hires the state police superintendent and oversees the agency. Miguez asked Purpera's office to review all out-of-state travel and associated expenses and overtime paid by the state for those trips from 2008 to 2017. He wants the review to look at who approved the travel and reimbursements.

That's the entire time Edmonson has been in charge, first tapped for the job by former Gov. Bobby Jindal and kept in place by Edwards.

Miguez said he was "not pointing any fingers at anyone," but wanted to have a nonpartisan review after he saw media reports about the questionable travel spending.

"Number one on my list when I got elected to office is protecting taxpayer dollars and making sure they're being used on public things," Miguez said in an interview. "This is about good government."

His letter to Purpera cited "alleged misuse of state taxpayer funding for trips taken by senior members of the Louisiana State Police, and the written approval by the LSP superintendent for taxpayer-funded reimbursement to LSP officials for what appears to be personal and recreational travel." He wrote that the legislative auditor's review would help determine "if this is a systemic problem within the LSP leadership and across the LSP."

Edmonson said he's ordered an internal investigation of the conference spending and has changed his agency's travel policy in response. He said when the review is over, "any hours that can't be documented as appropriate will have to be repaid."

Purpera said he'll learn about the investigations already underway, so he doesn't "duplicate other people's work." He said his aim will be to determine if policies need to be tightened to ensure proper spending in the agency.