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County official chosen as new city auditor

Jeremy Lazarus | 1/5/2018, 12:09 p.m.
Richmond City Council this week tapped a veteran of Chesterfield County government to make City Hall operations more efficient and ...

Richmond City Council this week tapped a veteran of Chesterfield County government to make City Hall operations more efficient and track down waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Louis G. “Lou” Lassiter, deputy Chesterfield County administrator, was approved to be the new city auditor at a special council meeting at Free Press deadline Wednesday night.

He is to start Feb. 1.

Before the meeting, council sources earlier confirmed that Mr. Lassiter was the choice to fill the slot that Umesh Dalal held before he was forced to resign in July. His departure after 11 years was not only controversial, but also expensive. City Council approved a severance and retirement package for Mr. Dalal worth nearly $400,000.

Mr. Lassiter will take over from interim City Auditor William C. Barrett III, a certified public accountant and former assistant professor of forensic accounting at Virginia Union and George Mason universities. Mr. Barrett took over supervision of the 14-member staff in mid-September.

Like Mr. Dalal and Mr. Barrett, Mr. Lassiter initially will wear two hats — as the auditor and as the city’s inspector general — sources said ahead of the vote.

Those two jobs could end up being separated by July 1 if the General Assembly approves a council-requested City Charter change. That would allow the council to hire an inspector general.

Also like Mr. Dalal, Mr. Lassiter will not be required to live in the city, usually a requirement for a senior executive in the city government.

A source said Mr. Lassiter’s family includes three adopted special needs children, and council agreed to waive the residency requirement after he objected that a move would be too disruptive to their education.

Mr. Lassiter’s city salary was not immediately disclosed, but he is expected to earn more than Mr. Dalal, whose salary was around $150,000 a year when he was ousted.

Mr. Lassiter currently earns about $165,000 a year as deputy county administrator. Council sources said he is expected to earn more than $170,0000 in his new city post, which would place him among the 10 highest paid city officials. In Chesterfield, he ranked among the top 20 in pay, according to publicly issued salary lists.

Mr. Lassiter came highly recommended and was the top choice of the committee that reviewed résumés, council sources said, in part for his ability to work with others. Mr. Dalal was forced out based on concerns uncovered by a consultant about his management style, which included alleged bullying of the office staff that led to a constant turnover of personnel.

Mr. Lassiter brings substantial knowledge as well as experience. He is a certified public accountant and a certified government financial manager.

During his 20 years with Chesterfield, he ran the internal audit operation for 19 years even after earning a promotion to assistant county administrator, according to a council press release.

He moved up to deputy county administrator for finance and administration, where he supervises and coordinates the operations of the county administrator’s office and the clerk to the Board of Supervisors.

His role, according to the online post, is to ensure integrated support and interaction between the county’s top administrator, the board, county employees and residents.

His work as deputy has included oversight of budget, finance and purchasing operations and real estate assessment, all key areas of county government.

He also has been in charge of handling relationships with other government entities and managing the county’s public relations and media communications.

Mr. Lassiter earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from James Madison University and a master’s in Christian Leadership Studies from Liberty University.