The state elections board this week rejected former state Rep. Frank Mautino's request to delay a public hearing on his campaign spending until a related federal investigation ends.
Meanwhile, the head of a watchdog group requested the Board of Elections use its powers under the law to investigate the Spring Valley Democrat's spending. He urged the board to reassert itself as the "credible umpire" of state election law.
In requesting the delay earlier this month, Mautino, the state's auditor general, cited his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
However, the board voted 7-1 against the request Monday. This means a public hearing on Mautino's spending could take place in the next month or so, said Jim Tenuto, the board's assistant executive director.
David Cooke, a Streator resident, filed the complaint against Mautino.
The U.S. attorney's office and state Board of Elections are looking into Mautino's spending of $200,000 in campaign money on car and gas repairs and a similar amount on bank payments while he was a lawmaker. Campaign money cannot be used for personal purposes.
'Judge prosecuting a case'
At the elections board meeting Monday, members received written comments from Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of OpenTheBooks.com, who asked the board to investigate Mautino's spending.
"Why are you — the elections board — forcing a private citizen, David Cooke, to prosecute this case on his own dime?" Andrzejewski said.
He said Cooke, a retired nuclear power plant operator, has little political, legal or public experience to prosecute "one of the most powerfully connected politicians" in the state.
The board has said it had had no investigators on staff for a decade and the agency only investigates clear-cut issues such as late filing of campaign finance reports. Tenuto said Tuesday it would be inconsistent for the board to both investigate and hear an issue.
"It's almost like a judge prosecuting a case," he said.
Mautino has hired one of the state's top law firms, the same one used by former Gov. Jim Edgar and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
"What if Frank Mautino gets away with this egregious behavior?" Andrzejewski said. "The Illinois State Board of Elections owns this case. The payments break your rules. You are the central authority ... The board must reassert itself as the credible umpire and enforcement mechanism of Illinois election law."
In an interview, Cooke said an attorney would cost him $50,000 to $100,000 "to do it right."
"I told the board that I paid tax dollars for the board to do its job. That's where I'm being disenfranchised," he said.
'11 brand-new vehicles'
In his comments, Andrzejewski questioned Mautino's spending of $213,000 with one Spring Valley vendor, Happy's Super Service, for gas and car repairs.
"Since 2005, the (campaign) committee could have purchased a brand-new car per year for 11 years — that's an entire fleet of 11 brand-new vehicles," Andrzejewski wrote.
Mautino, who started as auditor general Jan. 1, has said next to nothing about the controversy, with the exception of a statement sent through a spokesman in January that maintained all the spending was legitimate.
Mautino's spokesman had no comment Tuesday on the latest developments.
As auditor general, Mautino makes $157,000. After a year, he could retire and then collect a pension of $133,000, 85 percent of his final salary, a nearly $60,000 increase in his pension in a year.
Mautino represented La Salle County for nearly a quarter century.