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Ortgiesen could be fired soon

Burke: City official used his city credit card for personal expenses

Shawn Ortgiesen
Shawn Ortgiesen

DIXON - City commissioners met Monday night in closed session to discuss the employment status of Public Works and Personnel Director and City Engineer Shawn Ortgiesen, who could be fired later this week.

Ortgiesen, 43, was placed on paid administrative leave Monday for using a city credit card for personal items, said city officials who are seeking a criminal investigation.

Ortgiesen tallied $13,521.14 in personal expenses on his city-issued credit card from April 2007 to last month, officials said in a news release.

Of that amount, $4,890.31 has been reimbursed by Ortgiesen, but the city could not confirm repayment of the balance of $8,630.83, according to records compiled by Finance Director Paula Meyer.

The City Council is expected to call a special meeting later this week and vote on whether to fire Ortgiesen, who was promoted to personnel director in August.

Related: Angry citizens attend meeting, one calls for Burke's resignation

Ortgiesen did not return multiple phone calls or emails Monday. Mayor Jim Burke talked to Ortgiesen Monday morning; he indicated he would pay back the charges, the mayor said.

Burke would provide no further detail.

Police Chief Danny Langloss said a criminal investigation would not be done by his department.
"We can't do the investigation, to ensure there's no appearance of impropriety," Langloss said. "We will work with the state's attorney to find the most appropriate law enforcement agency to conduct an investigation."

After contacting the FBI and the United States Attorneyis Office to inform them of the issue, Burke said there is no indication of any connection between Ortgiesen's credit card use and the nearly $54 million that Rita Crundwell took from city funds through a secret account while she was city comptroller.

Ortgiesen and his wife Angela received a 10-year loan from Crundwell. A federal judge has ordered the repayment of the loan, although the amount owed and a timetable for repayment has not been released.

Ortgiesen's promotion upped his annual salary to $118,000, and added the responsibility of handling employee concerns and overseeing the city's human resources division.

Despite that, Ortgiesen's home in Lost Nation, just over the Ogle County border, has been in foreclosure since November, county court records show.

At the suggestion of Wipfli, the city's accounting firm, the mayor called a meeting March 15 between Meyer, Finance Commissioner David Blackburn and Rory Sohn of Wipfli.

At that meeting, the team left with a plan to internally audit current city practices regarding the use of credit cards, vehicles, gasoline consumption, petty cash and travel reimbursements of elected officials, management and staff.

In the course of reviewing historical use of credit cards by department heads over the past few years, Meyer discovered Ortgiesen had, on occasion, used the card for personal expenses, the release said.

Burke said the discovery was made around March 25. Of about 11 city-issued credit cards, Ortgiesen's was the only one indicating misuse, he said.

"We looked at everybody, and found nothing else," Burke said.

A breakdown of Ortgiesen's credit card usage was not made available.

"I think there was only one (charge) in 2013," Burke said. "It pretty much stopped around the first of the year in 2012."

There is no specific policy in the city's personnel code prohibiting an employee from using the credit cards for personal use, but "one would assume people don't use public money for private use," Burke said.

Burke said he did not target Ortgiesen, or suspect anything, when he called for the internal audits.

The mayor sent out a memo to city commissioners a week ago telling them about internal audits and requesting them to address management policies for the future.

"This was another step in instituting good management practices that enabled us to find this," Burke said. "It is certainly a negative, but overall, the city is on a positive direction."

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