The Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) are accusing the Illinois State Board of Elections (SBE) of committing a criminal act by not properly prosecuting Auditor General Frank Mautino for campaign spending violations he committed while a state representative.
“We allege this to be a criminal act, a Class A Misdemeanor, as provided for in the Illinois Election Code, Section 29-11,” the ECW said on its Illinois Leaks website. “Considering the SBE was negligent in the performance of their duties, we went ahead and forwarded this to the proper authorities in the form of a criminal complaint, along with other criminal allegations.”
Mautino was fined $5,000 after he failed to act in accordance with SBE orders to submit corrected campaign reports, electing instead to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Throughout the proceedings, SBE officials took the stance that nothing supported allegations that Mautino had violated election code in any way.
The ECW countered by asking how election officials could find Mautino guilty of one infraction and not the other, particularly given the rule that states: “Any person who knowingly fails or refuses to comply with any lawful order of an election authority issued by the election authority in the performance of the duties of the election authority, shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.”
In the face of what they see as SBE’s gross negligence, ECW officials have taken the liberty of forwarding what they highlight as proof of Mautino’s transgressions to the proper authorities for the purposes of a criminal investigation.
In addition, the group is pushing Gov. Bruce Rauner to remove all SBE members from office who did not follow proper protocol in letting Mautino off the hook with only a slap on the wrist.
Some of Mautino’s alleged spending transgressions date to the 1990s and include claims he shelled out well over $200,000 to one local gas station over a 10-year period for what's documented in official records as gas and car repair costs.
He first came under scrutiny by the ECW after staffers noticed that he continued to collect campaign donations even after he was appointed to the auditor general position in 2015.
Records show his campaign also wrote checks totaling more than $200,000 to Spring Valley Bank. While the campaign insisted the money was used to pay off vendors who required cash payments, no documentation was ever put forth to corroborate such assertions.
The incident isn’t the first time the 54-year-old Mautino has been implicated in what many see as shady dealings. He was previously part of a federal investigation looking into patronage hiring in Cook County government.
“We think the board failed to address substantive issues,” Jeffrey Schwab, staff attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, previously told the Sangamon Sun. “We will probably file some sort of motion to bring this back before the board. In this instance, what needs to be made clear is whether his committee violated election code.”
ECW officials argue that Mautino’s suspect dealings “prove he will always operate in his best interest, not the best interest of the state.”