Robert LaSala hired as Pinellas County administrator
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09/09/08 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

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Pinellas County has a new administrator. In a work session today, the Board of County Commissioners voted 6-1 to approve the contract for Robert LaSala, who in the 1980s served as chief assistant county administrator for Pinellas.

Until January, LaSala had been city manager of Lancaster, California, north of Los Angeles. Lancaster’s population is 144,000, about one-sixth that of Pinellas County. After County Commissioners had interviewed all of the semifinalists for the Pinellas position, they unanimously agreed to hire LaSala.

During Tuesday’s work session, Commissioner Kenneth Welsh asked LaSala how he would work with the many cities within Pinellas County to find opportunities for consolidation. LaSala said there needs to be a balancing act between economies of scale versus home rule.

Commissioner Susan Latavala asked LaSala about Florida’s financial situation and how he would deal with reducing taxes and the county’s revenue while still providing services. LaSala said efficiencies could be found in contracting, consolidation and tiered services.

LaSala will be paid $225,000 per year, which interim County Administrator Fred Marquis said is similar to the salary of the county’s previous administrator Steve Spratt, who resigned amid controversy a year ago. LaSala’s contract also calls for more than five weeks of vacation per year, up to $30,000 in moving expenses, and a severance package that would pay him six months salary if he is terminated. Spratt received one year of salary as severance.

Commissioner Karen Williams Seel was the only member of the Board to vote against LaSala’s contract. She said she supported hiring him, but could not support some of the lucrative terms of the contract, especially since the cost of living index in Pinellas County is much less than in California.

“We’ve sent a message out that we’re cutting our budgets, and yet we’re increasing the compensation in this case and that just does concern me a bit.”

LaSala will start his position as Pinellas County administrator on Oct. 12.

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

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