Following a special investigation by the State Auditor’s Office, former Elgin City Clerk Rhonda Dales has been found responsible for the improper or unsupported use of almost $140,000 over a nearly four-year period.
According to a Thursday news release and accompanying report provided by Auditor Rob Sand, the investigation was undertaken at the behest of Elgin city officials based on their concerns involving transactions Dales made between Oct. 1, 2017 and June 30, 2021.
Beginning in Feb. 2020, the report explained, the Elgin City Council “had concerns regarding Ms. Dales’ misrepresentation as a full-time employee in order to obtain full-time employee benefits,” in addition to her “failure to follow reasonable and proper directions pertaining to the processing of insurance stipends, and general public conduct.”
When the City Council met on March 16, 2020, just as the first COVID 19 lockdowns began, Dales’ performance was addressed, though “no action was taken by the Council regarding the concerns identified.”
Over a year later, however, the Elgin City Council met in closed session “to discuss ongoing concerns regarding Ms. Dales’ performance. As a result of the meeting,” the report indicated, “Ms. Dales was terminated effective as of May 17, 2021.” Shortly thereafter, officials in Elgin requested that the state Auditor’s Office step in and review the city’s finances.
Following the conclusion of Sand’s investigation, which included reviewing the city’s bank account and City Council’s meeting minutes as well as interviewing both Elgin officials and Dales, herself, the Auditor’s Office attributed to Dales “$131,212.73 of improper disbursements and $7,531.67 of unsupported disbursements,” the release stated.
The disbursements made by Dales identified as improper, the release continued, included “$104,282.70 of unauthorized payroll and additional checks issued to Ms. Dales,” as well as “$19,204.10 of unauthorized reimbursements…and $5,881.00 of excess insurance premium payments,” all issued to Dales. In addition, the improper disbursements also included “personal purchases made using the City’s debit card and interest and late fees to IPERS.”
The nearly $8,000 of unsupported disbursements, meanwhile, were comprised of “$6,595.93 of reimbursements issued to Ms. Dales and $935.74 of purchases made with the City’s debit card.” These expenditures are identified as unsupported rather than improper, the release states, because a lack of documentation made it impossible for Sand to “determine the propriety of these disbursements.”
The recommendations the report offered for Elgin’s city leaders, meanwhile, included encouraging them to undertake efforts which would “strengthen the City’s internal controls and operations, such as improving segregation of duties, perform bank reconciliations and ensure disbursements are properly supported by sufficient documentation.”
Regarding the nature of Dales’ employment while in the Clerk’s role, meanwhile, “several Council members stated that she was part-time; therefore, was not entitled to any benefits. However, other Council members stated she was full-time and would be entitled to receive benefits,” the report noted.
Dales served in the part-time City Clerk’s role beginning on July 10, 2003 until she was fired in May 2021.