Dixon's Lesson: 'Trust, But Verify,' BGA Tells Municipalities

Apr 17, 2014

It's been two years since FBI agents arrested Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell. She's in prison for stealing $53 million over the course of two decades. Since the incident, the Better Government Association has been working to educate other municipalities about how to prevent such fraud.  BGA investigator Pat McCraney  says the guiding principle should be "trust, but verify."

Rita Crundwell and her attorneys leave federal court in Rockford (May 2012)
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Much of the money taken from Dixon was reimbursed after a lawsuit settlement and the sale of her personal belongings and properties. McCraney says the hope is that the windfall doesn't cause city leaders to go back to their old ways, but he says it appears the scandal rocked the city enough to make permanent changes.

McCraney says the BGA supports stronger self-policing by municipalities in which multiple people monitor finances. He says that includes city employees, coupled with elected leaders, to handle verification.

"I don't know that there's $54 million walking out of a town, but you know there's other theft going on around this state." - Pat McCraney, investigator, Better Government Association

McCraney says it's good practice to rotate auditors every couple of years to ensure there are fresh eyes to catch missing money.