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Opinion | updated: 1/27/2016 11:04 AM
Guest view: New auditor general must step down
By Adam Andrzejewski
Founder of OpenTheBooks.com
After Illinois Auditor General William Holland retired last fall, three years into his third 10-year term, the General Assembly appointed State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, as his replacement.
Mautino, the former Deputy House Majority Leader, was the anointed pick of powerful House Speaker Michael J. Madigan of Chicago.
But Mautino didn't stop raising campaign cash -- even though he wasn't running for office any longer. He raised an additional $15,500 from longtime donors between the appointment vote and his swearing-in ceremony as auditor on Dec. 7.
Mautino said he used the money to "pay off debts, shred documents," and "close his campaign office." But his campaign disclosures show the loans were already paid off.
This week, the exposure by citizen watchdog groups of hundreds of thousands of dollars in odd payments flowing through Mautino's campaign account prompted local and Springfield newspapers, good government groups and fellow legislators to ask him to open his books.
But there is no plausible justification for the spending and Mautino has refused to directly answer inquiries. He, therefore, must resign or face removal by a three-fifths vote of the legislature.
This week, the noted downstate accountability group -- the Edgar County Watchdogs -- quantified $213,338.31 in campaign gas and vehicle repairs paid by Mautino's political committee to one local vendor since 2005: Happy's Super Service Station in hometown Spring Valley.
The "gas" and "gas and vehicle repairs" averaged $20,000 per year or roughly $55 per day over the last 10 years and nine months.
Additionally, state travel reimbursement payments (taxpayer money) to Mautino amounted to nearly $34,000 since 2005. These reimbursements were for travel in regard to his legislative duties and service on the audit commission.
Last year, Republican congressman Aaron Schock resigned from office after newspaper disclosures of alleged misappropriated gas and travel reimbursements. With Mautino, the gross amounts of the questionable transactions could dwarf the allegations against the congressman.
But Mautino's campaign spending doesn't stop with the gas and car repairs. The hometown Ottawa Times newspaper quantified $77,967 or $382 per month over 17 years spent on "campaign meals" at local restaurants. About $33,000 was spent at his wife's family's restaurant, Alfano's Little Sicily in Spring Valley. Since 1999, Mautino billed the campaign for 500 trips to Alfano's.
Mautino also spent $273,973 at the local bank, Spring Valley City Bank. The Edgar County Watchdogs again did the math and Mautino's disclosed principle and interest payments of $94,000 exceeded his disclosed bank loans of $26,000. Then, the watchdogs found another $180,000 in campaign expenses paid to … the bank.
When is the last time anyone saw a local bank running campaign operations?
Here are just a few of the checks that Mautino's campaign cut to his local bank: $10,000 for poll workers, precinct walkers, and phone banks; $2,600 for 52 precinct walkers; $8,000 for election expenses.
Our organization at OpenTheBooks.com found other questionable dealings. The family distribution company, Mautino Distributing Company, has received $271,417 in state agency payments -- mostly starting in 2009. Coinciding with Mautino's promotion to Madigan's leadership team as Assistant Majority Leader, state agency payments into the company jumped from $9,393 (2008) to $71,701 (2009). Mautino worked there for 16 years under his father, and today, his cousin, Mark J. Mautino of Spring Valley runs it.
In line with a highly publicized resolution last fall at the College of DuPage, new Illinois Auditor General Mautino is in charge of an outside "trust" audit of the school's spending. After exposure of such spending of his own, who would trust Mautino's conclusions?
In Illinois, our Number 1 manufactured product is corruption where governors typically end up making license plates. The people need an auditor with basic integrity.
In Illinois, this integrity must be proven. Mautino cannot meet this basic standard.
Mautino must be held accountable for his own record. Mautino must resign as Illinois Auditor General immediately.
Adam Andrzejewski is founder of OpenTheBooks.com and an occasional contributor to the Daily Herald Opinion page.
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