Dixon’s comptroller crisis sparks reaction in Orion

As federal authorities lug the loot from Rita Crundwell’s farm, the tally could total millions of dollars. Yet yearly audits of Dixon’s books did not turn up any wrong-doing.

“I noticed some red flags I would have picked on right away,” said Jim Cooper, Orion’s Village Board president.

Based on Crundwell’s $80,000 yearly salary and extravagant lifestyle, there was plenty to watch.

“A $2 million motor home, all those new vehicles, long unpaid vacations — these are some red flags,” Cooper continued.

“We ask questions and wonder what happens,” added Orion Village Board member Mel Drucker.

Orion uses regular board and finance meetings to balance its books. Every bill, no matter how large or small, goes under the microscope. A quarterly review keeps the budget in perspective.

“I can’t recall that anybody has ever come to a board meeting and questioned financially what we’re doing with the money,” Drucker said.

In Orion, financial checks and balances keep the village functioning properly and within its means. This kind of money management also serves as a role model for other communities.

Orion also invests in an outside audit each year. It provides more assurances about village finances.

“We trust our village employees,” Cooper said. “But just for extra credibility sake, we do the extra mile.”

That makes the Dixon situation even more perplexing. For other communities, like Orion, it’s shocking.

“I just absolutely can’t understand how that community was able to operate with that great of loss of revenue,” Cooper said.

While Orion’s population is just over 1,800, it still faces that same financial accountability of larger cities. It’s hard to imagine Crundwell’s alleged thefts of more than $30 million occurring in Dixon since 2006.

“That type of money for that short period of time — just unfathomable,” Drucker concluded.

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