The kids playing in a new splash pad park opening July 6 in Dixon probably won't be thinking about a convicted former city official. But money gained in a settlement of Rita Crundwell's embezzlement case helped pay for the attraction.
The $100,000 from the city's so-called recovery fund was just a part of the total funding for the park, which was started with a $200,000 anonymous donation. But City Manager Danny Langloss said use of the fund illustrated what Dixon has been able to do to improve things since Crundwell's theft came to light in 2012, after a settlement with auditors and an auction of her property allowed the the city to claw back $40 million of the more than $53 million she stole over two decades.
"We've been able to completely wipe our debt clean," he said. " And then the council's done a good job of creating reserves and setting money aside in a fund to be available to do projects just like this splash pad."
Langloss said the city was also able to shore up its public safety pension obligations and make needed infrastructure improvements with the money. And there's still about $11 million in the fund.
"We now sit better financially than almost any other community in the area," he said. "We've really been able to turn what was a huge negative into a positive."
Crundwell used the money she took from the city to fund a championship quarter horse operation and a lavish lifestyle. Crundwell was arrested in 2012 and agreed to a plea deal in exchange for forfeiture of her assets and a twenty-year prison sentence. She's currently in serving time in a federal prison in Pekin, Illinois, with a release date in 2030.