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Ortgiesen resigns, pays debt, with interest

Another commissioner admits signing off on credit card reports

Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 5:40 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 2:46 p.m. CDT

DIXON – City Engineer Shawn Ortgiesen resigned Tuesday and sent the city a check to cover what he owed for personal expenses on a city-issued credit card, plus interest.

Also, Commissioner Dennis Considine and Mayor Jim Burke confirmed Tuesday that they signed requisitions Ortgiesen filed recording his credit card expenses. Finance Commissioner David Blackburn could not be reached for confirmation, but one requisition appears to have his signature as well.

Ortgiesen, also director of public works and personnel, racked up $13,521.14 in personal expenses on the card from April 2007 to last month. Of that amount, he had paid back $4,890.31, meaning he owed $8,630.83.

Ortgiesen attached a check for his remaining balance, which included interest calculated at 5 percent, to the letter of resignation he sent Tuesday to City Hall.

The check totaled $9,157.38.

In a letter addressed to Burke and city commissioners, Ortgiesen wrote: "Please accept my resignation from my position with the city of Dixon. I am truly sorry for breaking the trust of the city council, all city employees, and the community. Serving this community has been an honor, and I am saddened to forfeit this opportunity. I wish the best for the city of Dixon."

Burke said he received the letter about 4 Tuesday afternoon.

"The council feels this is the best thing for our city to move forward," the mayor said. "We are continuing to implement best practices, and we are committed to providing high-level government services to our community."

Thursday's special City Council meeting, at which members had intended to vote on whether to fire Ortgiesen, has been canceled.

Considine contacted Sauk Valley Media on Tuesday to say he signed two requisitions, initially reported to appear be the initials of Finance Commissioner David Blackburn.

On a January 2012 requisition signed by Considine, Ortgiesen noted $3,449.85 in personal expenses: $1,114.11 to "Walmart, Menards, etc."; $1,086.62 to "Dell, Amazon"; $482.87 to "Galena SH, etc." and $766.25 to "Chicago."

The corresponding credit card statement shows a $286.19 charge at Hotel Burnham in Chicago and $212.50 charge at Hilton Hotels in downtown Chicago, including $115.24 spent at the Cheesecake Factory in Chicago.

In February 2012, Considine signed off on a requisition that Ortgiesen wrote "reimbursed" next to a $700.99 expense from "Verizon, etc." A receipt shows Ortgiesen repaid that amount.

Considine said he was given the requisition and "didn't pay as much attention as I should have," admitting the error on his part. He said he asked questions about Ortgiesen's purchases outside of Dixon, at a Menards in Sterling, but did not ask about the reimbursement.

Burke said he will issue a written statement in the next few days about signing the requisitions.

"There's so much more to these signatures and signing the requisitions," Burke said. "It's not black and white."

Ortgiesen's credit card was one of 13 issued by the city, Finance Director Paula Meyer said.

Ten of the 12 other cards are issued to: Meyer, Police Chief Danny Langloss, Police Lts. Clay Whelan and Brad Sibley, Fire Chief Tim Shipman, Water Department Superintendent Rusty Cox and general foreman Matt Heckman, Wastewater Treatment Superintendent Dan Mahan, Public Property Superintendent Curt Phillips and Building Official Paul Shiaras. There also are two issued for general use, one for the police department and one for the library.

Burke and Meyer have said none of the other cards were used for personal expenses.

Since all but one of the credit card requisitions turned in by Ortgiesen dated before October 2011 were not signed by a commissioner or the finance director, Meyer said the new policy requires requisitions to be signed by her and a commissioner.

Meyer said she also encourages the staff recording the information into the computer to raise questions if they see anything suspicious.

Ortgiesen used the card for personal use only twice after the April 17, 2012 arrest of former Comptroller Rita Crundwell, who would have been overseeing his expenses.

Her arrest for stealing $54 million from the city over the last two decades prompted Meyer's hiring, and her subsequent scrutiny of the city's books and financial practices, which is how the Ortgiesen situation came to light.

Burke said the decision whether to prosecute criminal charges against Ortgiesen will be made by the Lee County State's Attorney's office. The Sterling Police Department is investigating the case.

Documents

Requisitions and credit card statements signed by former Finance Commisioner Roy Bridgeman

Requisitions and credit card statements signed by Finance Commissioner Blackburn

Requisitions and credit card statements signed by Mayor Jim Burke

See the full packet we received after filing a Freedom of Information request (92 pages)

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