BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - State Police Col. Mike Edmonson says he is not accepting the retirement plan increase that would have paid him and another trooper more than $300,000 over five years.
"There's been too much distraction on what ought to be most important and that's my men and women who carry the State Police badge and are doing remarkable work across Louisiana," Edmonson tells WAFB 9News. "The spotlight should be on them and not me. Because of that, regardless of what comes back from the review by the attorneys for the retirement committee, I'm going to follow my heart and not accept it."
Questions surfaced about alleged special treatment for Edmonson after an amendment regarding his retirement plan made its way onto an unrelated Senate bill in the final hours of the 2014 legislative session.
Earlier this month, the Louisiana State Police Retirement System (LSPRS) asked their attorneys for more information regarding the eleventh-hour amendment onto Senate Bill 294. The amendment came in conference committee, meaning it's unclear who exactly added it to the bill that was eventually signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. The original sponsor was Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans).
The amendment effectively releases Edmonson and one other Master Trooper from the old Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) that was repealed in 2009 and puts them in the current Back-DROP. Edmonson was a Captain when he entered DROP, meaning his pension would have been based on his Captain's salary. The decision to enter DROP is normally irrevocable, but the amendment in question allows Edmonson's pension to be calculated with his current colonel salary of $134,000.
An actuarial note attached to SB 294 lists the cost of the amendment at $300,000 over five years, estimating the amount to be paid out to Edmonson and the other Trooper.
State Treasurer John Kennedy says it's a nice gesture, but it doesn't change anything.
"I think under the circumstances it was the right decision, but this has never been about personalities," Kennedy said. "As a member of the board of trustees who is charged with implementing laws…I still do not know how many people are impacted by this. I appreciate what happened today, but it's about a law on the books that we have to get to the bottom of. The inquiry has to move forward."
Meanwhile, Edmonson says he will let the legislature handle it.
"We will let the legislature review it next session based on any proper protocol," Edmonson says. "They can make a determination whether they want to do anything with it or not. I have notified the legislature and will notify my state police retirement committee on Monday. I have also advised Governor Jindal's administration of my decision. "
“There was too much misinformation out there. I have 34 years as a state trooper and I’ve always followed my heart and I’m following my heart now.”