Auditor General Mautino on a roll ignoring the law
Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino has yet to pay a $5,000 fine slapped against his now-defunct state House campaign committee in May by the State Board of Elections.
Just last week, his attorney also canceled a hearing in Edgar County Circuit Court where the Edgar County Watchdogs had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against him.
“It came out of the blue,” Kirk Allen of the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) said. “We had no notice and there’s been no explanation of why they canceled.”
ECW brought the suit in May, 2016 over their request for copies of responses Mautino made to lawmakers who asked about the alleged misuse of campaign funds while he was a member of the House. Among other shocking expenditures, his campaign committee made more than $225,000 in payments to a service station between 1999 and 2015. There was no indication that the payments had anything to do with the campaign.
Allen said that Mautino’s office first responded to the FOIA request by sending 6,500 pages of documents completely unrelated to the correspondence to lawmakers.
“I checked every page,” Allen said.
Later, Allen said that the auditor general’s office admitted it had violated FOIA but then never responded to a settlement offer. ECW then filed the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the State Board of Elections has been given an extension to Dec. 21 to respond to an appeal of the original case against Mautino. David Cooke, a private citizen from Streator who filed the original complaint in February 2016 and then the appeal to the 4th District Appellate Court in Springfield this past October, charges that the board never addressed the merits of the original complaint. The board fined Mautino’s campaign not for the violations but for not complying with the board’s order to amend the expense reports, according to Jeffrey Schwab, senior attorney with the Liberty Justice Center, which is representing Cooke.
Some Illinois political leaders are exasperated at the developments in the Mautino case and by the lack of media attention.
“It is appalling that this situation has not received more media coverage,” said state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), who is challenging Gov. Bruce Rauner in the Republican primary. “This situation also proves that our election laws need to have real consequences when people violate our laws.”
Bernadette Mathews, assistant executive director of the State Board of Elections, said that the only “teeth” in the campaign law covering unpaid fines is that the individual whose campaign committee was fined is prohibited from running for office until the fine is paid off.