SPRINGFIELD — Investigations into Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino’s campaign spending by both state and federal agencies has a group of lawmakers calling for him to step down at least until the inquiry is completed.
Over the past few months, Mautino has been dogged by questions surrounding campaign spending that occurred during his 24 years as a Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives for the 76th District. Following an appointment last October, Mautino began serving as auditor general in January.
State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) was among 21 Republicans who signed a letter addressed to Mautino on June 2 questioning his ability to manage his office while a federal grand jury is convened and an ongoing State Board of Elections investigation is proceeding.
The letter suggests Mautino should take an unpaid leave of absence until both matters are cleared up.
“If the Auditor General's duty is to ensure integrity of government systems in Illinois, we should at least be able to trust that he was able to do the same with his campaign funds,” McCarter told the Record. “The key thing in most relationships is trust, and if you don't have trust, it normally doesn't work out that well.”
In late May, a spokesperson for Mautino said the auditor general, who was confirmed in October to a 10-year term, was cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s office. The elections board also ordered Mautino to provide more information about expenditures of campaign funds, including hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on gasoline and car repairs at Happy’s Super Service Station in Spring Valley.
Mautino’s confirmation was nearly unanimous, with only 10 state representatives voting against it, and a unanimous decision by senators. McCarter now says that his vote in favor of Mautino was a mistake.
“I made the wrong vote by confirming him,” he said. “I went to some people who knew him better than me, and they had a positive response. Politicians, whether they like it or not, sometimes make mistakes, and this was a mistake. And if I did make a mistake, I'd certainly like Mr. Mautino to prove that he is above reproach.”
The letter sent to Mautino said that as a practical matter he wouldn’t be able to effectively manage the Auditor General’s Office while the investigations are ongoing, and also that people of the state can’t trust him at the moment.
“Illinoisans deserve clean government,” the letter, sent by Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) on behalf of the 20 other lawmakers, said. “They deserve audits they can trust. With an Auditor General laboring under the weight of state and federal investigations, they have no guarantee of either.”
It then calls on him to step aside until the investigations are over.
McCarter noted that it makes sense for Mautino to take an unpaid leave of absence, because Mautino needs to prove that he deserves to be trusted.
“If the Auditor General's not able to perform his job because he's not proven to us that he can do that, he should step aside,” McCarter said.
Mautino replaced former Auditor General William Holland who had retired in the third year of his 10-year term.
He was confirmed by the General Assembly, with a unanimous 55-0 vote in the Senate and 102-10 vote in the House. Mautino was sworn in during a ceremony in December, becoming the state's third Auditor General, a post established in the 1970 state constitution.
Mautino officially took office Jan. 1 in a position that pays $152,000 per year.
Prior to his appointment, Mautino, 53, had served in the House for 24 years. He became a deputy majority leader in 2011. He served 18 years on the Legislative Audit Commission before resigning from that panel last summer to apply for the auditor post.
Soon after his appointment, questions began to surface about his campaign expenditures, including fuel and repair expenditures, which reportedly topped $200,000 in almost 11 years.