Election Board Probes Auditor General

Frank Mautino's spending is the subject of an Illinois State Board of Elections investigation

The Illinois State Board of Elections has undertaken an investigation into former state Representative and current Auditor General Frank Mautino's campaign finance records.

Mautino, a Democrat, served as the representative for Illinois' 76th District from 1991-2015. The district includes Hennepin, Ottawa, Streator, Peru, LaSalle, Oglesby and Spring Valley. 

The probe stems from a complaint made by Dave Cooke, a retired nuclear plant employee from Streator. Cooke lodged the complaint after reading reports about Mautino's campaign spending.

Mautino reported spending $200,000 for gas and repairs at a service station in less than 11 years. Many of the payments were made in large, round figures of $1,000 or more. 

His disclosure reports also account for $250,000 paid to Spring Valley City Bank. The money was reportedly used for gasoline, parking, poll watchers, travel expenses and other expenditures not related to banking.

The payments, which the bank often received in round figures between $100 and $300, were designated for vague purposes, like a "Chicago meeting." Often the descriptions were coupled with words like "gas" or "parking."

Mautino's campaign treasurer, Patty Maunu, also received $23,800 over the course of 16 payments since 2013. Once again, all payments were in round figures. The expenditures were reportedly for meeting expenses, but there is no details on the spending.

There was however a notation that no single vendor received more than $150. This is interesting because once a campaign gives more than $150 to an individual or entity in a quarterly reporting period, that person's name and address must be disclosed.

Mautino's campaign also purchased four vehicles. Mautino owned one of the vehicles, but claimed it was "primarily driven" by a campaign worker. Another vehicle was owned by a campaign worker.

According to Illinois state law, politicians and candidates can't use campaign finances to buy vehicles unles their primary purpose is for campaign or government work. Mautino claims the vehicles in question were used for these purposes.

Cooke reportedly sent the election board media reports regarding the auditor general's spending and 70 pages of Mautino's campaign disclousure reports in hopes of an investigation.

Cooke voiced some of his concerns to the Illinois Times.

"They couldn't provide the services, they didn't perform these services," Cooke said. "You take cash out of a bank, then they paid, evidently, someone for something, allegedly."

Mautino has refused interview requests since January, when he assumed office as the state's auditor general. He has since been the subject of newspaper reports and an investigation by government watchdog group, the Edgar County Watchdogs.

As a result of the coverage, Mautino has retained public relations consultant Ryan Keith to handle questions about his campaign spending. 

Keith released a statement in January defending his client.

"During his legislative career, Frank ran for re-election every two years. His campaign committee, Committee for Frank J. Mautino, fully disclosed and reported all spending by the campaign in compliance with Illinois campaign finance and disclousure laws," Keith wrote. "His reports fully detail campaign expenditures that were made to help defray the standard, reasonable expenses incurred while Frank performed the governmental and public servie duties of serving as state representative if his large, mostly ruraly district." 

During a Feb. 18 interview on Channel 20 news, Mautino claimed he was thoroughly reviewing his campaign expenditures.

"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."

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