Crundwell, Reagan compete for attention

Dixon may have reached the final stage of grief – acceptance – if the questions at the recent Stupor Bowl were any indication.

Like it or not, Dixon will be known for a long time as the home of Rita Crundwell, competing with hometown hero Ronald Reagan for attention. While City Hall politicos would like to move on, it'll be hard to shake the scandalous former city official, who single-handedly stole $54 million from city coffers.

At the Stupor Bowl, the annual trivia competition supporting the Dixon Public Schools Foundation, organizers asked plenty of questions about Crundwell, more than about Reagan, the previous favorite.

The questions about Crundwell were about the price of her motor home ($2.1 million), the name of her ranch (Rita's Ranch), the name of the bank account that Crundwell used to steal the money (RSCDA), the city employee who discovered the account (City Clerk Kathe Swanson), Crundwell's maiden name (Humphrey) and the date of her arrest (April 17, 2012).

With those kinds of questions, you knew the Chamber of Commerce wasn't running the show. One of the categories was current events, and the organizers deserve credit for fighting any temptation to sugarcoat Dixon's recent history.

Here's another local effect of the Crundwell scandal: Politicians no longer can credibly point to Chicago as the source of all political evil in Illinois. Before, when measures to clean up government surfaced, we sometimes heard the argument that the rest of the state shouldn't have to suffer for Chicago's corruption.

In November 2011, when the Lee County Board rejected a ban on nepotism, Lee County Board member Greg Witzleb, R-Dixon, spoke out against it.

"The majority of nepotism is in Cook County and the collar counties," he said. "We're bringing up something we shouldn't be looking at. It hasn't occurred here."

The implication: Folks outside the metro area are inherently more virtuous. Ironically, Witzleb made his comments during a year in which Dixon native Crundwell made off with nearly $4.7 million in taxpayers' money.

To be clear, Witzleb has nothing to do with city government. But it's worth pointing out that he and others are mistaken when they make "it-doesn't-happen-here" arguments.

Of course, it can happen here. Crundwell proved that putting our guard down is no solution.

David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525. 

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