Still no answers in Mautino’s questionable campaign spending
Despite the Illinois State Board of Elections and the Edgar County Watchdogs launching investigations into Auditor General Frank Mautino's campaign finance records, the former state representative has remained relatively mum amid growing scrutiny.
The scrutiny began in January when Mautino’s disclosure reports showed extravagant spending -- to the tune of more than $200,000 -- on gas and vehicle repairs over the span of 11 years to Happy’s Super Service in Spring Valley, which is Mautino’s hometown.
Edgar County Watchdogs, which has called out mayors, board chairmen and state's attorneys since 2010, quantified the amount to be $213,338.31. Irregularities in payments to Spring Valley City Bank also raised eyebrows.
After weeks of dodging questions about his campaign spending, Mautino claimed to be extensively reviewing his campaign expenditures during a news interview on Feb. 18.
"What I've done is, I am going through many of the receipts that were held by my campaign committee," Mautino said. "I've got some people helping me organize it so that I can make a statement that's full and accurate, and reflects the spending in the areas of my campaign."
The former deputy leader in the General Assembly was nominated by influential House Speaker Michael Madigan and appointed by the General Assembly to replace William Holland, who retired as Illinois auditor general after 23 years of service. Holland had a reputation of fairness and nonpartisanship.
For the past several months, Edgar County Watchdogs covered the scandal extensively on the group's website and probed into what appears to be a potential violation of both the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Local Records Act by allegedly concealing certain records requested by various entities.
On Feb. 9, Kirk Allen of the Edgar County Watchdogs sent a FOIA request via email to the Office of Auditor General for a copy of any communication received in the last 30 days by the office or Mautino from any individual, group or legislators seeking a response or answers to questions about Mautino’s campaign records, and a copy of any response Mautino provided.
The auditor general’s office responded, but Allen alleges four specific documents were concealed from his request: an email from Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) on behalf of 11 other state representatives, dated Feb. 1, asking Mautino to “add clarity to the reporting and suspect spending from your now closed campaign fund”; an official letter corresponding with the email giving Mautino 10 days to respond in writing; an email from Mautino’s e-mail account to Wehrli stating Mautino was asking for more time; and Mautino’s Feb. 9 letter to Wehrli indicating that although the auditor general was working to meet the deadline, he would need more time.
“No one wants to clear up this matter more quickly than I do,” Mautino wrote.
Allen made a second FOIA request on Feb. 14, requesting correspondence received and responded to between Feb. 10 and Feb. 15, and alleges that this time, two documents were concealed.
“It is clear that a total of six public records were concealed in my FOIA request,” Allen wrote on the group’s website. “Based on the response from the auditor general in his letter attached in both responses, none of the above identified documents are referenced as being denied or redacted. It is clear the records were concealed without lawful authority. Now the question is, was the concealment of these communications done with an intent to defraud?”
The Local Records Act prohibits the concealment of records made or received by any officer or agency, stating that “any person who knowingly, without lawful authority and with the intent to defraud any party, public officer, or entity, alters, destroys, defaces, removes, or conceals any public record commits a Class 4 felony.”
Other troubling expenses in Mautino’s reporting include an additional $30,000 in state travel reimbursements for legislative duties and service on audit commissions since 2005 – paid by taxpayers' money; $271,417 in state agency payments to family-owned Mautino Distribution Company since 2005, with increased annual payments occurring after Mautino’s promotion into Madigan’s House Majority leadership team in 2009; $33,000 paid to his wife’s family’s pizza restaurant since 1999; and $273,973 paid to a local bank from his campaign fund.
The payments made to Spring Valley City Bank were made in round figures between $100 and $300, with vague purposes listed, such as "Chicago meeting," "gas" or "parking," according to Chicago's NBC affiliate.
In addition, Mautino's campaign purchased four vehicles – one for Mautino (although he claimed it was "primarily driven" by a campaign worker) and another for a campaign worker.
Illinois state law prohibits politicians and candidates from using campaign money to buy vehicles unless they will be used primarily for campaign or government work, which Mautino says the vehicles were used for.
NBC Chicago also reported that, since 2013, Patty Maunu, Mautino's campaign treasurer, received 16 payments totaling $23,800 reportedly for meeting expenses -- although no details were provided on the spending. Interestingly, the reporting suggested that no single vendor received more than $150. An amount more than $150 to an individual or entity in a quarterly reporting period would require disclosure of the individual's or entity's name and address.
Due to increased scrutiny. Mautino retained public relations consultant Ryan Keith to address questions about his campaign spending. In January, Keith released a statement referencing Mautino’s “exemplary service to his communities” during his 24 years in the Illinois House.
"During his legislative career, Frank ran for re-election every two years,” Keith said in a statement. “His campaign committee, Committee for Frank J. Mautino, fully disclosed and reported all spending by the campaign in compliance with Illinois campaign finance and disclosure laws. His reports fully detail campaign expenditures that were made to help defray the standard, reasonable expenses incurred while Frank performed the governmental and public service duties of serving as state representative of his large, mostly rural district."