The city administration is facing questions about its hiring process after the departure of its finance director. The mayor's office won't say whether Dominic Ochei was fired or if he resigned, only that he is no longer a city employee.
Late Friday, the city named Wayne Lassiter as the interim director to fill that spot. He previously held it before Ochei was hired. Ochei left his job with the city after just about six weeks in the position.
City Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall is the man who signed Finance Director Dominic Ochei's hiring letter. Sources inside Richmond City Hall say after Ochei was already on the job, the administration was made aware of a bankruptcy filing.
Marshall explains if all things had been put on the table at the outset, the picture of Dominic Ochei might have looked very different.
"One of the things we ask every candidate is, is there anything else you can tell us, is there anything in your past that if it came to light, it would be embarrassing to you or it would be embarrassing to the administration or it would put the city in a bad light," Marshall described. "He didn't answer that question fully."
We've learned the finance director was vetted by the city's own review committee and an outside advising firm called Springsted.
We asked the CAO if the bankruptcy is something that should have been picked up in the vetting process. He replied, "I suspect so and we're reviewing that process right now."
Ochei was employed with Richmond from May 13 through June 26. His severance package adds up to about $3,000.
This isn't the first problem with a department head. Recently, there have been a few high-level separations, including the former head of the city social services department, who stepped down after a scathing city audit.
We wanted to know if there is a concern the public might doubt the hiring process after these instances. Marshall said, "I don't at this moment have that concern. I can imagine why people might want to know what we're going to do to make sure that things are stronger."
We asked the CAO how he can make sure to get the pertinent information needed, like if somebody had a bankruptcy. He responded, "You do deep background checks and we'll do deeper background checks."
Marshall says he will move as quickly as possible in the search for a permanent replacement. That same search firm now has to work with the city again, with no additional charges.
We have reached out to Ochei, but have not heard back yet.
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