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When did city officials know?

Mayor, finance commissioner apparently signed off on personal expenses

Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 5:42 p.m. CDT
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Shawn Ortgiesen
Caption
Dave Blackburn
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Jim Burke

DIXON – Signatures or initials of approval that appear to be Mayor Jim Burke's and Finance Commissioner David Blackburn's show up on at least six credit card requisitions filed by City Engineer Shawn Ortgiesen – all of which show personal purchases and notations of his intent to reimburse the city.

As common practice, Ortgiesen, also Dixon's personnel and public works director, filed requisitions recording his credit card expenses.

Sauk Valley Media filed a Freedom of Information request April 8, and late Monday afternoon received copies of credit card statements, receipts and requisitions for the city-issued credit card Ortgiesen used since 2005.

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

Document: Requisitions and credit card statements signed by Finance Commissioner Blackburn

Document: Requisitions and credit card statements signed by Mayor Jim Burke

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

On the 31 requisitions, Ortgiesen wrote "to be reimbursed" next to several items on 27 of them, noting the expenses were for personal purchases.

Ortgiesen, 43, was placed on paid administrative leave April 8 for using the city credit card for personal items, said city officials who are seeking a criminal investigation. He has been invited to a special council meeting Thursday, where he will be given a chance to explain his side of the story before members go into closed session to discuss his employment status.

Officials also have admitted the city has no written policy for using its credit cards.

Ortgiesen racked up $13,521.14 in personal expenses on the card from April 2007 to last month.

Of that amount, he has paid back $4,890.31. He still owes $8,630.83, according to records compiled by Finance Director Paula Meyer.

Most of the requisitions filed by Ortgiesen were not signed by anyone.

In November 2011 and again in June 2012, signatures appearing to be Burke's showed up on the mayor's signature line on the form.

Burke could not be reached for comment late Monday. Blackburn has repeatedly turned down requests for comment, and Ortgiesen has not responded to numerous messages seeking comment.

Ortgiesen noted $433.16 of travel expenses that "needed to be reimbursed" in November 2011, including $301.50 for a cash advance at First National Bank in Dixon, $58.55 at Oregon BP and $60.09 at Oregon BP. No further explanation of the expenses were included on the reimbursement, and no records show the charges were repaid.

In June 2012, Ortgiesen noted $721.46 in Chicago travel expenses. This time, he wrote "reimbursed," and records show he paid back those charges.

Signatures or initials appearing to be Blackburn's showed up on the commissioner's signature line on four requisitions.

On a January 2012 requisition Blackburn appeared to initial, 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.

Most of Ortgiesen's "to be reimbursed" expenses are for hotels and restaurants in Chicago, Springfield and St. Louis. On one occasion, credit statements show Ortgiesen charged $782.58 at Allegiant Air and another $226.80 for a rental car in Sanford, Fla.

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.

In July, Ortgiesen used the credit card three times for personal use, totaling $721.46, according to his requisition, which appears to be signed by Burke.

On the statement, Ortgiesen listed the expense as "Chicago Travel Expenses (Reimbursed)."

The charges were made at Embassy Suites Downtown in Chicago for $136.23, Hyatt Hotels in Chicago for $511.23 and Cityfront Plaza in Chicago for $74.

Ortgiesen paid back the $721.46 in August.

Last month, Ortgiesen charged a $5 meal at McDonald's to the card and $20 at Stop n' Go with comments "personal expense to be reimbursed to the city" on the statement. Blackburn's initials appear to be on the mayor/commissioner line and Meyer's signature appears to be on a line for the finance director.

There are no records of these expenses being paid back.

One requisition form, dated December 2010, appears to be signed by former Finance Commissioner Roy Bridgeman.

To attend

The City Council will meet at 1 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 121 W. Second St., to take public comments before going into executive session to discuss the employment status of City Engineer and Personnel and Public Works Director Shawn Ortgiesen.

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

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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