CHICAGO - Local county officials in Illinois will be offered special financial training on how to protect their coffers from corrupt fiscal practices similar to what happened in Dixon, Ill. where the comptroller stole $50 million in public money.
The Illinois Association of County Officials and Illinois Certified Public Accountants Society are partnering to offer the training at the association's fall conference beginning Sunday in Peoria. The training will offer help in selecting auditors, what to look for in audits, what questions officials should be asking of auditors and what internal control measures to put in place to prevent fraud and other financial risks.
Dixon, Ill., last year settled a lawsuit with its auditors resulting in the city recouping $40 million of its lost funds. The city accused its auditors and bank of failing in their duties by not uncovering the theft of $53 million by its former comptroller Rita Crundwell.
Crundwell was sentenced by a federal judge last year to nearly 20 years in prison following her conviction for stealing the funds to pay for a lavish lifestyle and quarter horse farming business while Dixon struggled to balance its books and was forced to cut services.
Federal authorities have said the case is believed to be the largest theft of public funds in state history. Crundwell had entered a guilty plea to wire fraud and agreed that she engaged in money laundering in connection with her theft.
The city, about 100 miles west of Chicago, has a population of just 15,700 and annual expenses of about $17 million. The city has about $11.7 million of general obligation debt certificates outstanding. It does not carry public ratings.
Federal authorities have held several auctions of Crundwell's assets - including 400 quarter horses, a luxury motor home, jewelry, her homes, other property, a 2005 Ford Thunderbird convertible, and a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette. The auctions have raised $12.4 million.
Crundwell began working for the city's finance department while in high school in 1970. She began stealing from the city around 1990 when she established a special capital fund bank account she alone controlled and began moving money around various city funds and accounts to shield her theft. She blamed the city's fiscal woes on the economy and the state's chronic lateness in forwarding various payments.
Alarms were raised by another city employee who was filling in for Crundwell while she was on vacation in 2011 after the employee reviewed city bank statements. The mayor then alerted authorities.