$400,000 severance for former city auditor

7/28/2017, 12:02 p.m.
Former City Auditor Umesh Dalal seems to have been as adept in negotiating his own exit package as he was ...

By Jeremy M. Lazarus

Former City Auditor Umesh Dalal seems to have been as adept in negotiating his own exit package as he was in examining the practices of city departments.

Just a week before approving a major overhaul of severance payments for departing officials that will reduce payouts, Richmond City Council cleared the way for the former watchdog of city spending to receive the largest payout ever for a city official.

Council President Chris Hilbert, in keeping his promise to release the information, disclosed Monday that Mr. Dalal resigned in exchange for a package worth nearly $400,000.

City Council approved the package on a 6-3 vote.

Mr. Dalal’s attorney negotiated the deal with City Attorney Allen L. Jackson, who presented it to City Council at a closed-door session July 17. Mr. Dalal was a council appointee.

The disclosure came the same day the council approved severance reforms in response to public outcry over far smaller severance payouts that former Mayor Dwight C. Jones provided to three of his staff members before he left office on Dec. 31.

According to Mr. Hilbert, the Dalal package included an upfront payment of $106,991.10. That payment includes $23,486.40 for unused vacation and $83,504.70 in severance.

The severance was calculated using the pre-reform rules that provided for Mr. Dalal to receive one month of pay for each year he served, up to a maximum of seven months.

Under the reform rules, his severance would have been reduced to around $44,0000, or 16 weeks of pay.

The biggest chunk of the council-approved package involved a $284,894.74 payment to the Richmond Retirement System to increase his city pension.

As a senior executive, Mr. Dalal earned two years of credit toward his pension for each year he served; his 11 years in office qualified him for a pension based on 22 years of service.

The council payment essentially ensured he would be paid a pension as if he had 30 years of service with the city. The difference is substantial for a pension amount that is based on the three years of highest pay, which, for him, averages to about $141,500 a year.

Without the council boost, he would have been eligible for a pension of about $62,000 a year, or about 44 percent of his highest average pay. The council payment means he is likely to receive nearly $85,000 a year, or 60 percent of his highest average pay.

Three council members voted against Mr. Dalal’s pension package — Kim B. Gray, 2nd District, who led the effort to reform severance pay; Kristen N. Larson, 4th District; and Parker C. Agelasto, 5th District.

Following the disclosure, Councilman Michael Jones, 9th District, was among members expressing chagrin Monday night about their vote for the Dalal package when he raised the subject at the end of the meeting.

As one of the six members who voted for the package, he said he had been prepared to offer a motion to reconsider the Dalal package. But he said he pulled back after Mr. Jackson advised him the package represented a contract and that Mr. Dalal could sue and win damages if the council took another vote and rejected the deal.