* I’d recommend that you read both of these stories from beginning to end because there’s too much to post here. Let’s start with the Times…
For more than a year, the state elections board has sought records to show how former state Rep. Frank Mautino spent campaign money at a bank and gas station.
The answer on Thursday: The documents no longer exist.
During a two-hour hearing in Chicago, attorneys argued whether the Spring Valley Democrat’s spending of campaign money complied with state elections law. Mautino, now the state’s auditor general, was not present.
Mautino’s attorney, Sergio Acosta, contended the campaign treasurer followed state law as she read it. And when the committee dissolved in December 2015, the records “were not kept,” he said.
“She didn’t understand what was needed as part of reporting to the Board of Elections,” Acosta said during the hearing, which took place on the 14th floor of the downtown office building.
Attorney Jeffrey Schwab, however, pointed out state law required the campaign keep the last two years of records. In any case, he said, the expenditures violated the election code.
* News Tribune…
At issue was whether or not these expenses were allowed under the election code, which requires campaign spending be for campaign purposes only. By filing campaign disclosures listing the bank or the service stations as the vendor, it was impossible to know who the ultimate recipient of those services was.
“There is no evidence that is provided that these charges were for legitimate campaign or governmental purposes,” Schwab said. “Even if it was, the election code prohibits the way that they did it.”
In response, Acosta said that the hearing was to determine if the committee was “willfully” withholding the documentation. Citing Manu’s deposition, the way the spending had been done since 1999 had been the way Manu thought it was supposed to be done: if the check was written Spring Valley City Bank, Manu thought that was to be the vendor.
Acosta also brought into evidence a letter from 2012 from the state board of elections regarding a time Manu had filed a report listing the names of individuals. Instead, she was to list where the money went to, the business.
He also entered into evidence campaign disclosure forms from Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) and Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) who filed similar expenses in a similar way. Wehrli and Ives both called for Mautino to step down as auditor general last year while the campaign spending issues were being sorted out.
Acosta also brought from Manu’s testimony the fact that Mautino had two accounts at Happy’s, and she testified that she paid the campaign account out of campaign funds and Mautino’s personal account from his private funds. He said no one from the committee intentionally violated the law, saying at no point to the state board inform the campaign that it was filing its forms incorrectly.
“The board itself has been inconsistent, the campaign regulations are unclear, and certainly to the extent that any violation is found at the end of these proceedings … there can be no questions with respect to these many years of reporting that Ms. Manu submitted, she believed she was not violating the law at all,” Acosta said.
Again, go read them both all the way through.
…Adding… Press release…
At a hearing in Chicago today before the State Board of Elections, Illinois’ embattled Auditor General Frank Mautino continued his refusal to answer questions concerning campaign expenses that have sparked criminal investigations at the Federal and State levels. State Representatives Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) and Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) attended this morning’s hearing, and stressed that Mautino’s decision today to “plead the Fifth Amendment” to again avoid providing answers must result in his removal from office.
“Members of the General Assembly gave Auditor General Mautino five chances last year to provide us answers to questions surrounding the state and federal investigations into his campaign finances. He refused. The State Board of Elections gave him two deadlines to produce the required information. He refused. Today, he pleaded the Fifth Amendment, again refusing to answer questions,” Rep. Wehrli said. “We cannot have someone serving as the taxpayers’ top financial watchdog who refuses over and over again to answer questions about serious, possibly criminal problems with his own finances. Auditor General Mautino must be removed from office.”
“Auditor General Mautino has had more than a year to answer questions related to the allegations against him, yet today he again refused to come clean. It is time for him to do the right thing for the people of Illinois and resign. If he won’t, then the General Assembly must act to remove him from office. We cannot afford to have the state’s top auditor continue in office under the cloud of state and federal investigations into his misconduct,” Rep. Ives said.
Representatives Wehrli is sponsoring House Joint Resolution 9 to remove Frank Mautino from the office of Auditor General. The resolution will require a three-fifths majority vote in both chambers of the General Assembly for approval.
“Unethical behavior is not a partisan issue. All elected officials in Illinois must be held to the highest standard regardless of party. If he won’t do the honorable thing and resign, then Auditor General Mautino must be removed. I will be pushing for a hearing on HJR9 when we return to Springfield next week,” Wehrli said.