State elections panel criticized over Mautino decision
Giving Auditor General Frank Mautino a slap on the wrist rather than handcuffs around them proves where the Illinois State Board of Elections (SBE) puts its priorities, a government oversight group argued recently.
The board fined Mautino $5,000 for not complying with its orders to submit corrected campaign reports, but nothing to address Mautino campaign’s reporting practices, which were the central issue of the complaint that led to the investigation, the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) said on their Illinois Leaks website.
The ECW described the decision as a shocking dereliction of the board's role in ensuring accountability in the state in light of the clear indications that Mautino, at the least, did not follow proper reporting procedures for his campaign expenditures.
“They confirm at a minimum, some of the reported expenditures were not done correctly, which indicates to anyone with a brain, he failed to properly report his expenditures,” Kirk Allen, the ECW's co-founder, wrote. “Had this entire board actually read the pleadings they would have known this and been able to issue a finding that Mautino’s campaign did, in fact, violate the election code… . Such a failure to address the very complaint before them points to this being nothing more than a kangaroo court that failed the public.”
The ECW triggered the investigation into Mautino’s campaign spending that uncovered suspicious reporting and spending dating to the 1990s. The group was suspicious of the fact that Mautino’s campaign continued collecting donations after he was appointed to the auditor general position, and upon reviewing his expenditure reports found that he had paid out more than $213,000 to one service station between 2005 and 2015.
Mautino's campaign had also written more than $200,000 in checks to Spring Valley City Bank, which the campaign said were used as a mechanism to get cash for vendors who required cash payments. It has not provided any documentation to show that the cash collected from Spring Valley Bank went toward campaign expenditures.
The ECW cited the pleadings from Mautino’s attorney, in which he wrote that the campaign might not have correctly reported some expenditures.
The SBE also decided not to refer the case to the attorney general’s office or the La Salle County state’s attorney, which might have pursued criminal cases, the ECW said.
“Even more disgusting in this process was this boards inability to garner enough votes to turn this over for a potential criminal prosecution,” Allen wrote. “The lame excuse was that there was no finding of a violation of the election code, only a finding that he did not do what the board told him to do. Anyone that has kept up with the extensive coverage of Mautino’s check cashing scheme knows such a position is nothing more than a protective mechanism of the establishment and political gamesmanship that has plagued the State of Illinois for years.”
Allen, who was at the SBE meeting when the board voted on the fine, said the ECW will pursue a formal criminal investigation through a complaint with the state police.
“It’s clear, the rule of law is no longer applicable to the political elite,” wrote Allen. “…[K]now that this board failed the public with their refusal to read and apply the rule of law and the citizen of Illinois are the ones harmed by their actions.”