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DIXON (WREX) –
A Dixon state representative hopes some new Illinois legislation will keep a theft like Rita Crundwell’s from ever happening again. The new plan includes harsher penalties and more government oversight.
Lawmakers overwhelmingly passed three bills in the house. But there are concerns at least some of the legislation just adds more government to municipalities that already have oversight in place.
“That we have effective and strong prosecution at our disposal on the state level to make sure we can effectively deter this from happening and prosecute those who do it,” says Representative Tom Demmer.
He is a Dixon native helped introduce what’s being called the Anti-corruption Legislation. It was created after Rita Crundwell pled guilty to stealing $53 million as Dixon’s comptroller. One bill allows for forgery charges to be brought if an invoice or a receipt is counterfeited. The second establishes higher penalties for theft or misapplication of public funds.
“Both of those kind of recognizing that forgery is already illegal, theft is already illegal but when it happens with local government is has that added impact of harming people’s trust and confidence in local government. So we recognize that maybe those need a little more stronger teeth in prosecution,” says Demmer.
The third creates safeguards by making all counties and municipalities create a finance and audit committee which includes members of the government and the public. Winnebago County already has something like it, its called the finance committee.
“In some ways it would be redundant,” says Bill Crowley, Winnebago County auditor.
That’s because not only is each department audited and brought before that county committee. They have also gone a step farther.
“We have the checkbook online, you can go on our website and you can actually see the payments that we make to various vendors in real time,” says Crowley.
The bills are currently in the Illinois Senate. It still has to pass out of committee but senators should vote on the bills in May.