March 22, 2017 Fair, 42°F

Comptroller worked horse shows around her city job

DIXON – The arrest of fired city Comptroller Rita Crundwell may put her colleagues in the quarter horse industry in a bind.

The American Quarter Horse Association says many members are concerned that her arrest may affect their ability to get documents that require her signature.

“Naturally, this is a big issue to touch the industry,” the association’s vice president, Don Treadway, said in a statement late last week.

Crundwell was arrested last Tuesday; federal authorities said she had misappropriated $30 million in city money.

The association issued a news release to say it didn’t have answers on how Crundwell’s case will affect registrations of her stallions’ foals.

Registration-related documents, such as breeding certificates, are needed to compete in quarter horse competitions.

Federal authorities haven’t contacted the association about Crundwell, the leading quarter horse owner for the last 8 years, representatives of the group said.

The association hasn’t clarified whether it would allow Crundwell to take part in competitions.

The terms of Crundwell’s release require that she stay in northern Illinois and western Wisconsin.

‘You sit up there, and he’s a Cadillac’

In recent days, industry insiders have said Crundwell’s downfall could have a big effect on the quarter horse industry. Crundwell, who has hundreds of horses, hires many trainers, so if she goes out of business, they could lose a lot of work, the insiders say.

Also, quarter horses could flood the market if the federal government requires their sale to compensate the city of Dixon, the insiders say. That could cause quarter horse prices to drop.

The main media organizations for horse enthusiasts posted news stories about Crundwell’s arrest last week.

Over the years, those organizations have showered Crundwell with positive coverage.

She has run full-page advertisements in The Equine Chronicle magazine, which is published every 2 months.

In 2009, GoHorseShow.com published a story on Crundwell’s birthday party, thrown by her boyfriend, Jim McKillips. It featured prime rib and an island-style band. Her birthday party is considered a premier event in the industry.

Crundwell and McKillips put on many shindigs for their colleagues.

GoHorseShow.com noted that McKillips is known for his tailgating equipment – “armed with a setup that would make any tailgater at the parking lot of an NFL game jealous.”

“There’s never a shortage of food when Jim’s behind the grill, so bring your appetites and prepare to be amazed,” the website said. “This is one tailgating champion who wears his crown proudly.”

McKillips said Monday that he wouldn’t comment on anything to do with Crundwell. He is the manager of the Meri-J Ranch in Beloit, Crundwell’s other horse operation.

The Equine Chronicle featured Crundwell in its November-December 2008 edition. She focused on one of her horses, Good I Will Be.

“I’ve ridden some really nice horses, but he’s the best I’ve ever thrown a leg over,” she said. “He’s a dream. You sit up there, and he’s a Cadillac.”

‘They are used to me being gone ...’

In the July-August 2003 edition of the Chronicle, Crundwell, who has worked for Dixon since 1970, praised her co-workers at City Hall.

She explained that her job as comptroller was similar to that of a city manager, which Dixon doesn’t have. She also said scheduling often could be a problem because her small office had only three employees.

“Often scheduling around the others’ vacation requests is difficult, but most things can be scheduled around the important horse shows,” she told the magazine. “They are used to me being gone in August, October and November.”

Crundwell, who had been the comptroller since the early 1980s, also complimented her supervisors, whom she didn’t name.

“I almost had to fly back and forth from Florida circuits this winter, but when my boss learned I was leading the circuit with my halter mare and my Hunter Under Saddle horse, he told me to stay and show,” Crundwell said in the story.

She added that she carried a portable computer back and forth, giving her access to her city email. She said she also called City Hall every day.

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