Edmonson won’t take retirement boost

State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said Friday he will not accept the enhanced pension benefits granted as a result of a controversial last-minute law change.

Edmonson said he wants the Legislature to revisit the issue in its 2015 session as separate legislation.

“It’s been too much of a distraction,” Edmonson said. “It takes away from what is most important: the citizens of the state and troopers working everyday.

“I feel in my heart it’s the right thing to do,” said Edmonson, who has 34 years at State Police. “Whether I deserve it or not that will be determined at a later time.”

The Edmonson retirement provision was added to a unreleated bill on June 2, the last day of the legislative session. No hearings had been held on the special interest provision that impacted Edmonson and another veteran trooper. It surfaced as an addition to another bill in a conference committee.

Louisiana State Police Retirement System Board has begun looking into the legality of the retirement provision’s passage, hiring Robert Klosner, nationally recognized retirement attorney, to help with the research. Board executive director Irwin Felps has pointed to the “lack of transparency” in the process.

“We will bring it next year,” Edmonson said Friday. “I want the Legislature to say yeah or nay.”

Edmonson said he made the decision on his own with no input from the Jindal administration.

Edmonson said he is not retiring for at least a year-and-a-half so there is plenty of time to address the situation.

The new law would essentially have allowed Edmonson to receive lifelong pension payments based on the calculation of his higher colonel’s pay of $135,000 a year. That’s more than he would have received at captain’s pay, where it was frozen because of a 2006 decision he made to participate in the Deferred Retirement Option Program.

Under the old rules, a trooper had to make a decision whether to enter DROP when he or she reached 25 years of service or 50 years of age. DROP allowed troopers to continue working even though they were eligible for retirement. The downside was that troopers didn’t get credit in their pension checks if they started receiving higher salaries after joining DROP.

Troopers did not have to enter DROP but once they did the decision was irrevocable.

Only Edmonson and the veteran Houma trooper are left in State Police’s old DROP program with the frozen benefit which each get in a lump sum after they ultimately retire. Both have continued to work past DROP and are paying into the system again and earning a separate added benefit.

Others who entered DROP with Edmonson and the Houma trooper have already retired and are living on retirement based on the decision made back then.

Regular DROP changed to what is called “back DROP” in 2009.

The system actuary recommended the change because the old DROP worked well for state employees and teachers but not for hazardous duty employees who often did not work as long.

Under back DROP, a trooper waits until they are ready to retire, then looks back to see they want to base their retirement on their last three years pay or get a lump sum as if they had entered into DROP three years before, Felps said.

“You have total information at your disposal so you can make the decision. It costs money to have that back DROP in place,” said Felps.

Troopers ended up paying one-half of 1 percent more in contributions, he said.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.