The Illinois Auditor of Public Accounts was the most obscure office in Springfield -- until 1952, when Orville Hodge was elected to fill it.
A popular former state representative from Granite City, Hodge was considered a political comer who would use the office to build a resume for the governorship. As Illinois’s accountant, it was Hodge’s job to protect the state from fraud and embezzlement. This put him in a perfect position to embezzle, because who would audit the auditor?
Halfway through Hodge’s term, he began forging warrants for public expenditures. But the money didn’t go to the recipients Hodge had invented. It went to Hodge. For a while, Hodge’s scheme was so profitable that he was able to purchase a luxury home overlooking Lake Springfield, a Florida hotel, two planes, a Lincoln and a Cadillac.
On the Illinois Comptroller’s website, Hodge has the most extensive biography. At least his corruption earned him a bigger place in history than any of his predecessors.
Orville Hodge used his legislative knowledge and skill to obtain a budget for his office $2.5 million higher than was needed in the previous biennium. Despite this increase, he spent money so freely he ran dry before the end of his term and had to be bailed out by the legislature with a $525,000.00 emergency appropriation. He had embezzled more than $1 million from phony state warrants; misappropriated another half million of liquidating funds of closed banks and robbed the taxpayers of another million by padding illegal expense accounts, illicit expenditures, fraudulent contracts and waste.
Hodge’s friends assumed he’d become wealthy from his family real estate insurance and building business in Granite City. But the Chicago Daily News was suspicious enough to look into the source of Hodge’s new lifestyle. The paper won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the embezzlement scheme. Hodge was indicted for conspiracy to embezzle state funds by forging state warrants and for misappropriation of bank funds. served 6-1/2 years in Menard Correctional Institution.
Hodge’s corrupt led to the abolition of his own office, which is why he comes in at Number 6 on Ward Room’s list. In 1970, Illinois held a convention to write a new constitution. The delegates created two offices for handling money: a treasurer, for investments, and a comptroller, for disbursements. They were betting that not even Illinoisans would elect two thieves at once.
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