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Attorneys prep for 'document-heavy' lawsuit against former Dixon auditor

Motion filed to protect information from outside use

Published: Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 4:19 p.m. CDT

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DIXON – A lot of information is going to change hands over the next couple months as the city pursues its case against its former auditor.

A slew of motions filed Thursday are designed to protect that information, primarily financial, from being used outside the case.

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The case will be "very document-heavy," said the city's attorney, Devon Bruce of the Chicago firm Power Rogers & Smith, P.C.

At this point, he said, it looks like witness depositions will be taken in late October. The case has a progress hearing scheduled Oct. 9.

In the meantime, the city is seeking information related to what federal prosecutors say is the misappropriation of $53 million over two decades by the former city comptroller, Rita Crundwell.

Samuel S. Card, a Sterling accountant, and the firms he worked for were professionally negligent for missing the fraud and not raising any concerns about the city's finances, the city is arguing in its lawsuit. (Neither Card nor his attorney were at Thursday's hearing.)

The city has requested the tax returns and other related documents of Crundwell and her private business, RC Quarter Horse LLC.

Crundwell's attorney, Paul Gaziano, said she would not object to the request as long as the protective order was filed to keep those documents private, Bruce told Lee County Judge Dan Fish.

The city also requested Crundwell's personal financial information from Fifth Third Bank.

CliftonLarsonAllen, the firm that prepared Crundwell's tax returns, also prepared the city's financial statements, which were used to conduct the audit. Its predecessor, Clifton Gunderson, did the city's audits before Card took over.

Prosecutors date the fraud back to 1990, when they say Crundwell opened an account in the city's name at First Bank South, which eventually became Fifth Third Bank. The city also has accounts at U.S. Bank, and has requested both banks' policies and procedures related to the identification of fraud or other irregularities in a bank account, according to court documents.

The firms' attorneys also are seeking information from the city. Because the city is a public entity, some information can be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Bruce said.

They have requested city bank records, including the specific account numbers. The bank records are public, Bruce said, but the specific account numbers are not.

Regardless, he said, the city also is willing to release that information if it is to be kept private under court order.

That will save the city from having to go through all the documents and redacting the account numbers, Bruce said.

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