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New controls added to finance department in Dixon

Handbook, policy manuals coming as Crundwell arrest anniversary looms

DIXON – In the 2 years since former Comptroller Rita Crundwell was arrested at City Hall, lots of changes have been made – and more are to come.

The city hired a new finance director, Paula Meyer, and its first city administrator, David Nord. In November, residents will vote on whether to change the city’s form of government.

In the next few months, the city will get a review of its new accounting practices, a new employee handbook and a policies-and-practices manual.

Last week, Meyer, Nord and Mayor Jim Burke met with with Sauk Valley Media’s editorial board to discuss those changes, in addition to Crundwell’s time in Dixon and the 2 years since her arrest.

Click here to see video highlights

Sikich, a Naperville-based accounting firm, will be brought in to evaluate the city’s separation of duties in the finance department, Meyer said.

“What their intention is, or what their proposal is, is they’ll come in and look at the controls that I’ve set up and make recommendations for additional controls,” she explained.

Like most municipalities and even small businesses, Dixon doesn’t have an ideal separation of duties to eliminate the chance of theft.

“With that [small] size of an office, there is no way we will ever have appropriate separation of duties,” Meyer said. “It cannot be done. We have to spend a lot more money to do that, and that doesn’t make any financial sense. That will never happen.”

But new controls can make up for inadequate separation of duties, she said.

The city has added an employee in the finance department since Meyer was hired in September 2012.

Five employees now work under Meyer, Nord and City Clerk Kathe Swanson. Meyer has limited, by design, her ability to update or input information into the city’s accounting system.

Each of the five employees has a different responsibility, from inputting changes, printing and mailing checks. No single employee can individually complete the entire process, Meyer said.

And while the city no longer writes checks – another change by design – two signatures would be needed on a check if the system broke down and a written check was required.

Employee handbook

Nord is working on the city’s employee handbook and policies-and-practices manual.

“We are looking not just to be reactive with these things,” Nord said.

Nord wants the city to move away from the approach “This is the way we’ve always done it,” or, “This is the way I was told to do it,” which he has heard since he was hired in November.

“We’re putting things in writing,” Nord said. “Things as we become aware of will be part of that. Things that we could even think might happen will be put in that, as well.

“We don’t want to have to keep responding to things as they come to a head. We want to cut them off before they actually happen.”

A draft of the employee handbook could be given to the City Council for review soon, Nord said, and after that is approved, he will turn his focus to the policies-and-practices manual.

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