It was two years ago this week when one of the biggest cases of municipal fraud in U.S. history began to unfold. Former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell was arrested for stealing for more than $50 million from the city. Crundwell is now serving time in federal prison.
In Dixon, city officials continue to implement reforms they hope will prevent similar action in the future.
Dixon's finance director says municipal fraud can happen in so many ways, that it's impossible with a limited budget to prevent all cases of internal theft. But Paula Meyer says they believe they've done plenty over the past couple of years to make sure taxpayer dollars are being protected.
In the months following the Crundwell scandal, Meyer was hired to shape up accounting at city hall. She says instead of the numerous checking accounts that were used under Crundwell, they now rely on just one.
“Having all of those checking accounts camouflaged all of the activity flying between the accounts. It created a lot of confusion,” Meyer said.
Paper checks have also been eliminated. Meyer says they also have new policies when it comes to authorizing expenditures. That includes having one person submit an approved invoice, while another person cuts the check. Each employee does not have access to what the other is doing during that process.
In addition to new accounting practices, Dixon's first-ever city administrator is implementing reforms of his own. David Nord was hired last year for the position. He says he noticed some things that were long overdue, such as an overhaul of employee handbooks so that workers are clear on policies and procedures.
Meanwhile, voters will get a chance this November to weigh in on how local government should be run in the wake of the Crundwell scandal. A ballot question will ask them if Dixon should switch to a city-manager style government, instead of the current commissioner model.
Supporters say that approach would establish more checks and balances. But opponents worry that it would give one person too much power.