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Former LSP, National Guard chiefs re-emerge in coronavirus response| Around The Town

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Former Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and former Louisiana National Guard commander Glenn Curtis have both emerged as players in the state’s response to the coronavirus – this time as consultants in the private sector.

Edmonson, who resigned his top state post in 2017 amid investigations into questionable overtime and travel by top troopers, is consulting for a group of firms that includes Garner Environmental Services. The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness hired that company to house people believed to have coronavirus next to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
Curtis, who retired in December, works for Dynamic Construction Group, the main contractor on the state’s massive temporary hospital facility at the convention center – the key part of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ strategy to quickly increase the region’s medical capacity so that hospitals are not overrun with coronavirus patients.

Combined, the contracts are worth tens of millions of dollars, though the exact price tag is in flux in the rapidly moving response to the outbreak. GOHSEP hired Dynamic, a Baton Rouge firm run by Joshua McCoy, for an estimated $33.5 million for the initial project, which involved building out 1,000 beds and providing material for another 1,000 beds. That price tag is expected to grow because Edwards has already exercised an option to expand the facility to include the extra 1,000 beds.

Louisiana coronavirus spending balloons to $573 million; it has more than doubled in a week.

Meanwhile, Garner Environmental Services, a Texas firm owned by K-solv group, which also owns Belle Chasse-based OMI, was initially hired to establish isolation housing units in Bayou Segnette state park for $12.8 million. But GOHSEP changed the contract to have the firm set up trailers next to the Convention Center for patients suspected to have the coronavirus.
Edmonson said he is a consultant, not an employee, for the group of firms, and said he helps the firms navigate state government after a 40-year career spent with the State Police. He said he has not had any direct conversations with Edwards, for whom he served as police superintendent, about the deals.

Shortly after he retired from the State Police, in 2017, Edmonson said he was contacted by the owners of the companies to see if he could consult for them. He said the firms have worked on natural disaster response, including coronavirus, in other states like Florida and Texas.

“I’m a consultant,” Edmonson said. “I bring people together, set up meetings, help open doors.”

Curtis, who was on the floor of the Convention Center on Monday overseeing the ongoing work establishing the “step-down” facility for coronavirus patients, said McCoy, the Dynamic CEO, contacted him shortly after he retired to see if he could help with some flood mitigation work through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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Louisiana coronavirus tracking map: 14,867 cases | 512 dead | 1,809 in hospital
He said he hired a law firm to give him the ground rules for working with government contracting after leaving office, and he said he has stayed away from any work with his former agency, the National Guard. Edmonson also said he avoided any deals involving the State Police in order to stay in compliance with state ethics laws.
Because of his “vast knowledge of emergency response,” Curtis said he agreed to consult on the coronavirus deal, which sprang up shortly after he began working with Dynamic. He added that he told McCoy he wanted to stay away from dealing with state agencies on landing the contracts, and instead has been leading the actual work in the Convention Center.

“From an appearance standpoint, I said (McCoy) and his management team need to work at the state level … I would just work with him on the ground here,” Curtis said. “I’m going to play by the rules.”

McCoy said he had reached out to the state in recent weeks to express interest in any contracts that might arise from the quickly escalating coronavirus crisis in the state. State officials contacted him days later about the Convention Center deal, he said, and within 48 hours, GOHSEP had selected his firm.

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“(Curtis’) involvement is more there on site, helping make sure we hit the marks on our production,” McCoy said.

Curtis is listed in Dynamic’s proposal to the state as “director of operations,” and the proposal touted his 37-year career in the armed forces, ending as adjutant general of Louisiana’s 11,000 National Guardsmen, according to documents obtained through a public records request.
Louisiana state law prohibits former state agency heads from contracting with, or helping another person contract with, their former agency for two years after leaving office.

Edwards recently signed an executive order suspending the two-year ban, writing in the order that state agencies have “expressed an urgent need to utilize separated public employees to maintain and fulfill their missions.”

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Big shift in model of coronavirus in Louisiana raises questions about ‘peak’ of outbreak
Dane Ciolino, a professor at Loyola Law School and an expert on Louisiana ethics law, said both Edmonson and Curtis would be in the clear because their private consulting work is being done on contracts with a different agency than their former employers. Both contracts were awarded by GOHSEP.

Edmonson also retired more than two years ago, in March 2017, amid a series of investigations into questionable overtime charges and travel expenses from high-ranking troopers.

Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for Edwards, said the ethics law the governor suspended would not have applied to Curtis because he’s not contracting with his former agency. She said the suspension of the law was done at the request of sheriffs across the state, who needed the ability to bring back employees to add staff.

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