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The Crundwell Effect: One Year Later

It’s been one year since federal authorities announced the arrest of Rita Crundwell. The former Dixon comptroller is serving out a prison sentence after she admitted to stealing millions of dollars from the city. One year later, this situation is still being discussed by policy leaders in Illinois.When authorities announced that Crundwell was charged with stealing tens of millions of dollars from the city of Dixon, these questions often came up: how could this have happened and how do you prevent something similar in the future?

The Illinois Municipal League says it was a big topic at their conference last fall. And while there are no clear examples of municipalities taking action, outside of action taken by Dixon officials, the group says the case has created plenty of awareness amongst local governments.  

Michael Mondschain is the finance director for the village of Wheeling. He also co-chairs the legislative committee for the Illinois Government Finance Officers Association. He says there has been a healthy response over the past year. He cites proposed legislation in Springfield, along with dialogue between local officials.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about these issues both at the state level and locally with other finance directors. I think it’s something that’s on everybody’s radar screen right now” Mondschain said.

Freshman State Representative Tom Demmer of Rochelle, who grew up in Dixon, is pushing a series of recently introduced bills aimed curbing the type of practices carried out by Crundwell.

Dave Sinason is an accountancy professor at NIU. He says he understands that things don’t always happen quickly in Springfield, but he feels substantive action should have been taken by now.

In the months following the arrest, Sinason says he felt there wasn’t a sense of urgency.

“State representatives, when being asked about this, pointing to this as an isolated incident and it’s not likely to happen in other places. I don’t think that’s the appropriate attitude”

Those involved with the legislative effort say time was needed to carefully craft proposals that would deter corrupt behavior, while not creating an extra burden for municipalities.