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Out Here: A real mayoral race in Rock Falls?

So who wins politically with Allen Boseneiler off the Rock Falls mayoral ballot?

Probably City Clerk Bill Wescott, now the lone challenger to Mayor David Blanton in the April 9 election.

Any votes that would have gone to Boseneiler – in other words, folks unhappy with the local political establishment – now likely will go to Wescott.

When I spoke with Wescott the other day, he acknowledged this reality.

Last week, a Whiteside County judge threw out Boseneiler’s appeal of a city Electoral Board decision to remove him from the ballot. Boseneiler didn’t pay city fines before he filed his candidacy, which, the board ruled, violated the state municipal election code.

Four years ago, Blanton took 62 percent of the vote against Doug Schultz, a retired Lawrence Brothers employee.

Wescott noted that Schultz didn’t mount much of an effort and still got a respectable result.

This year’s mayoral race has been quiet so far, other than Boseneiler’s effort to get on the ballot.

Although a Blanton foe, Boseneiler also has been a big help for the mayor’s re-election effort, playing the role of convenient distraction.

The local businessman regularly attends City Council meetings, criticizing Blanton’s administration.

The Jan. 15 council minutes read, “A brief verbal exchange between Mayor Blanton and Mr. Boseneiler occurred. Mayor Blanton told Mr. Boseneiler that his time was up and he needed to sit down or he would have him escorted from the meeting. Mr. Boseneiler obliged the request.”

This circus is diverting people’s attention from other issues. One big issue: Sterling keeps making offers to consolidate services, contending that both cities would save money. But Rock Falls is rebuffing Sterling.

With the Boseneiler dispute presumably over, Blanton and Wescott can turn to other more pressing matters. They have more than a month to make this a real race.

‘No offense to typing teachers ...’

Recently, my fellow reporters, Kiran Sood and Derek Barichello, wrote about how Sterling City Manager Scott Shumard had asked Dixon Public Works Director Shawn Ortgiesen in 2010 about why Dixon was behind in getting state payments.

In April 2012, Crundwell was arrested for stealing $54 million from the city over more than two decades. Part of her deception was telling city officials that the state was delayed in sending payments to Dixon.

Shumard was comparing his numbers to other cities’ and wondered about Dixon. He said he didn’t suspect fraud, but figured there was a problem.

Last May, Shumard told Kiran in an interview that he informed an official about the problem with state payments. At the time, he wouldn’t say who he had told.

This week, he did – and revealed his email conversations with Ortgiesen.

Shumard told SVM that he didn’t really have a peer in Dixon. Ortgiesen, often called the de facto Dixon city manager, was the closest Shumard could find.

Shumard questions Dixon’s commission form of government in which part-time elected City Council members oversee different parts of city government.

“By having an elected official in charge of each function, you never know what level of expertise is ultimately in charge,” Shumard wrote in an April 20, 2012, email to a resident. “For years, the [Dixon] finance commissioner was Rita’s former high school typing teacher. No offense to typing teachers, but is that who you want overseeing millions per year?”

He was referring to Roy Bridgeman, who retired in 2011 after a couple of decades on the City Council.

Bridgeman dropped out of sight after the scandal broke last year. He won’t return media calls for comment. A few months ago, a woman who answered his phone told me that the Crundwell scandal had hit him hard. He had been slated to speak at Crundwell’s sentencing but didn’t.

Recently, the national show “Inside Edition” filmed Bridgeman walking into a local country club.

It’s important to note that one City Council member is very much an expert in finance. That would be David Blackburn, who has served since 1991. He is the guy in charge of the Dixon school district’s finances.

Until 2011, he was the council’s commissioner on public health and safety. Why, oh why, didn’t the city put the numbers guy in charge of finances?

Since the Crundwell scandal broke, Blackburn has been mighty quiet. On most issues, we usually get a “no comment” from him. He said he wants to reserve his comments for council meetings.

Shumard, for his part, recommends that Dixon go to the manager form of government.

“I wouldn’t expect any elected officials in the area to know any better than they did in Dixon, which is why I go back to having a professional manager in place who knows what to look for,” Shumard wrote in the email to the resident. “Richard Downey [former Rock Falls administrator] pulled Rock Falls out of a hole after Mayor Ed Mulvaney ran the show without anyone.

“Even local governments our sizes are too big a business just to leave to any elected person to run,” Shumard said.

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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