Sunday, May 26, 2024

State Police protection for Edwards’ European trips cost taxpayers $52,000

by BIZ Magazine

By Julie O’Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ two trips to Europe over the past three months cost Louisiana taxpayers almost $52,000 just for his security team. 

Sending Louisiana State Police troopers with Edwards on his 10-day trip to the Netherlands and France in August cost $33,846, and their travel on his six-day trip to London last month cost $18,123, according to information State Police provided in response to a public records request.

The two largest security expenses from the trips were the troopers’ lodging ($15,737), and their overtime pay ($15,693). Transportation for the troopers ($13,431) was also a big expenditure. 

Louisiana State Police officers travel with the governor as protection at all times, even when he leaves the state or country. The expense of having them on these trips often makes up a large chunk of the total cost of governors’ overseas travel, regardless of who is in office. 

The public cost of these trips will also end up being significantly higher than $52,000. That estimate doesn’t include any state travel expenses for the governor, First Lady Donna Edwards or several other state employees who went overseas with him. 

When Edwards led a $150,000 trade mission to Cuba in 2016, the cost of his security team made up only  a quarter of that trip’s public expenses

In August, Edwards went  to the Netherlands in part to see the country’s flood control projects. He then led a delegation to Paris and Normandy, where Edwards said he wanted to raise awareness for the World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Earlier this fall, Edwards’ trip to England overlapped with the Saints football game against the Minnesota Vikings in London, which he attended. The governor’s office said he also met with representatives of the Lloyd’s of London reinsurance market and energy companies. 

State Police did not provide as much detail about its spending on the governor’s recent European trips as it had in previous years.

When former Gov. Bobby Jindal returned from a European trip in 2015, State Police handed over receipts for specific travel-related expenses in response to a similar public records request. Those documents showed, for example, that one trooper on that trip charged the state government $308 for a theater ticket so he could provide protection while Jindal and his wife attended a show. 

Other invoices from Jindal’s 2015 trip revealed troopers also spent $3,000 on Murray Chauffeur Services, which went to various tourist attractions – such as the London Eye, Soho Entertainment district, Westminster Cathedral and Oxford Street – while they were overseas.

When it comes to Edwards’ trips, State Police has only turned over general information such as how much money was spent overall on overtime pay, lodging, meals and transportation while on travel. There is no specific information about how much public money was spent on individual hotels, car services or meals.

The 2015 records from State Police also made it clear that Jindal and his wife traveled with seven troopers on their mission to Europe, while records about Edwards’ two trips don’t disclose how many people were part of the security team.

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