BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Two troopers with Louisiana State Police who were demoted in rank following an internal affairs investigation into an expensive trip to a conference paid for by the public are appealing that punishment.
Troopers Derrell Williams and Rodney Hyatt went before the Louisiana State Police Commission starting Wednesday to reinstate their previous ranks.
Mike Edmonson, the former superintendent of Louisiana State Police took the stand Friday during the hearing. The former colonel wrapped up testifying around 11 a.m. in regards to his role when four state troopers drove to a conference in San Diego but took the scenic route and stopped at the Grand Canyon, as well as Las Vegas.
The other issue is these troopers clocked in working 12 to 14 hours for the drive, sleeping, and even when they were on their own personal time enjoying themselves.
Initially, Edmonson said he was not aware of the side trips and that they billed it to Louisiana State Police. However, during testimony, he said he was aware they were not taking a direct route to the conference.
"I didn't have a problem with any of that," said Edmonson. "In my mind, they're driving … they're driving west. I know how hard these individuals work. I know the job they do, what they do every day. So, I had no questions to have a detailed conversation. 'Okay, exactly where are you, what time is it?' I think one of the only conversations back was that, 'you need to get to San Diego.'"
Edmonson testified that he felt it was cheaper to drive to San Diego than fly four troopers. However, our investigative team found taxpayers paid nearly $19,000 for the trip for those troopers when flights and a car rental in San Diego could have been as low as $5,000.
Williams and Hyatt were the two highest ranking officers of the four troopers investigated for the lavish vacation they took back in October of 2016 to what was supposed to be a work-related conference. Hyatt also brought his wife on the trip with him.
The actions of the troopers were first brought to light in a series of reports by reporter Lee Zurik, reporting for WAFB and other Raycom Media television stations. After news of the trip broke, Gov. John Bel Edwards vowed to investigate the troopers' actions.
Williams was demoted from captain to lieutenant. Hyatt was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant. Their drops in rank also came with corresponding pay decreases.
The appeal hearing is scheduled for several days.