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Getting the boot? Decision on Ortgiesen could come next week

Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013 4:40 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, April 12, 2013 3:02 p.m. CDT
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Fran Ayars of Dixon stands outside City Hall Thursday with a sign that reads "Fire Ort." She was among several angry residents who attended Thursday's special council meeting, where commissioners decided to give Shawn Ortgiesen, the city engineer, public works and personnel director, one more week to give them his side of the story. Ortgiesen is on paid leave while officials decide what to do about his use of city credit cards for personal expenses.

DIXON – The City Council could make a decision whether to fire Shawn Ortgiesen as soon as next Thursday.

Like this Thursday, the City Council again will hold a special meeting at 1 p.m., take public comment then enter into a closed session.

An internal audit discovered Ortgiesen, city engineer and director of public works and personnel, tallied more than $13,500 in personal expenses on a city-issued credit card from April 2007 to last month. He paid back about $5,000, but left a balance of $8,630.83 unpaid.

A letter signed by Mayor Jim Burke was sent to Ortgiesen Thursday, informing him of the meeting and offering him the opportunity to comment "on all relevant matters," Burke said.

"After he's commented, he'll be excused, and a decision will be made," Burke said. "We'll come back into open session and announce that decision."

Attorney Tim Zollinger, who spoke on behalf of the city Thursday, said the council is working to give Ortgiesen his "due process," which includes giving him the chance to share his side of the story with commissioners, which he has not yet done.

"Due process is not always expedient and sometimes can conflict with the public's desire for immediate action," Zollinger said. "We're going to comply with our constitutional obligation and proceed fairly and appropriately."

Ortgiesen did not attend the Thursday afternoon meeting, and cannot be compelled to attend next week's.

Burke said he will talk with commissioners individually to suggest ideas about moving forward without Ortgiesen, who handled the city's personnel, public works and engineering duties.

As of Thursday, he'd spoken only with one commissioner, he said. The matter cannot legally be addressed in closed session if two or more commissioners are present.

There are two firms in Dixon that can be used for engineering services in the interim, if needed, Burke said. Ortgiesen's responsibility as a public works and personnel director will be discussed by commissioners.

"We have ideas, but we don't want to put them out there just yet," Burke said. "I want to bring all the commissioners up to speed, but we're not adrift on this."

When asked why he didn't address the issue during open session Thursday, Burke said he wanted to keep the focus on Ortgiesen's due process.

"I want to handle things one at a time," Burke said. "We may very well talk about it in open session Monday [during the city's regular council meeting], but I want to get their thoughts and feedback first."

Burke was unable to give any updates on a possible criminal investigation.

Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss has said that to avoid a possible conflict of interest or any impropriety, he will work with Lee County State's Attorney's Office to find an appropriate agency to investigate Ortgiesen's actions and to determine if criminal charges will be filed.

For now, the 43-year-old Ortgiesen is on paid leave.

(Raw video) Part 1: Dixon City Council Meeting Concerning Shawn Ortgiesen

(Raw video) Part 2: Dixon City Council Meeting Concerning Shawn Ortgiesen

To attend

The Dixon council's regular meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 121 W. Second St.

The council will meet at 1 p.m. Thursday at City Hall to take public comment before going into executive session to discuss the employment status of Shawn Ortgiesen.

Go to discoverdixon.org and click on "Citizens Information Center" or call City Hall, 815-288-1485, for agendas.

Related: 'You dropped the ball': Angry residents call for change

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