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Ex-city auditor still working for county

Firm gives clean report to board

Published: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

DIXON – The accounting firm being sued by the city of Dixon has another major client in town – Lee County.

On Tuesday, representatives of CliftonLarsonAllen, a national firm with a Dixon office, presented the annual audit to the Lee County Board.

It reported that the county had a clean audit. Two accountants, Megan Shank and Hope Wheeler, took part in the presentation.

Wheeler told the board that the county needed more segregation of financial duties to prevent fraud. But she said that was common with small, short-handed government agencies. To counter the problem, she advised the board to closely review and monitor finances.

At the end of the presentation, no board members had questions.

Last year, Dixon sued Clifton, one of the nation’s largest accounting firms, claiming it should have detected former Comptroller Rita Crundwell’s theft and asking for damages in excess of $53 million.

Crundwell, who stole nearly $54 million from the city over more than 20 years, was sentenced Feb. 14 to 19 years, 7 months in federal prison.

Last year, the city ended its decades-long relationship with Clifton.

The county has decided to stick with the firm, its longtime auditor.

The County Board’s vice chairman, John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove, said he sees no reason to end the relationship with Clifton “until they do something wrong with us.”

According to court documents, Clifton knew about the secret bank account Crundwell opened in the city’s name in 1990 at First Bank South, which later became Fifth Third Bank. She used that infamous account, known as RSCDA, to move in and out the millions she stole.

In a deposition, Shank, a certified public accountant for Clifton in its Dixon office, confirmed that she had worked on the city’s account and that she had received a response from Fifth Third Bank identifying Crundwell’s secret account as one that was not on a list of city accounts.

When the city’s attorney asked her what was done with that information, Shank admitted nothing was done.

“If a jury and a judge rule that Clifton was doing an audit in 2010, do you agree with me that Clifton deviated from the standard of care in not investigating the existence of the 9530 [RSCDA] account?” the attorney asked in the deposition.

“Yes,” Shank said. “There’s no documentation of further looking into that account.”

The city’s lawsuit is unresolved. The next hearing is in May.

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