ISBE rejects delay motions, moves forward with Mautino case
A public hearing in the Illinois State Board of Elections' (ISBE) case against Auditor General Frank Mautino will move forward despite attempts from both sides to delay it, including a motion by the Streator resident who filed the original complaint against Mautino concerning questionable spending of campaign funds.
“So I’ll have to find an attorney or learn how to do subpoenas," Streator resident David Cooke, a former Streator school board member and Exelon retiree, said during a recent interview. "And I want that. It’s a rare opportunity to go in and get the treasurer’s books, to go into the bank, get the records to substantiate and the service station’s; that’s what I want.”
The Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE) already had denied a motion filed by Mautino's attorneys to delay acting on the complaint. That decision, handed down by the board on Sept. 19, means the complaint now is in the hands of a hearing officer.
Cooke, who has been representing himself in the case since filing his complaint last winter, said he didn’t realize then that investigating the case would fall entirely on him, not the ISBE, which doesn’t conduct investigations.
Mautino is under federal investigation over campaign spending from his time as a state legislator. Mautino repeatedly has refused to answer questions about his spending of almost $200,000 in campaign contributions for gas and car repairs at Happy's Super Service in Spring Valley and also more than $200,000 in payments to Spring Valley City Bank.
Mautino has repeatedly cited his rights under the Fifth Amendment in reference to that investigation. However, Cooke's case has received little media traction because only a few news outlets have reported about the controversy around Mautino, which includes calls by a handful of state lawmakers that he answer questions or resign.
Cooke, in his request for more time, reminded the board that his pursuit of this case has been a lonely one.
"The burden of time, effort and financial means required to prosecute this proceeding has fallen entirely on me," Cooke said in his motion.
After denying Cooke’s motion to delay the public hearing, elections board member Andrew Carruthers said he wants to act on the hearing officer’s recommendations at the board’s October meeting.
It was after Cooke filed his complaint this past winter with the state election board, coupled with an ever-mounting number of calls for an investigation, that Mautino retained law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson, then went largely quiet about the case. For months, Mautino has not responded to most news media requests for comment, including those by the Illinois Valley Times.
Prior to his appointment as auditor general last December, the now 53-year-old Mautino had served in the state House since 1991 and as deputy majority leader since 2011. Mautino served 18 years on the Legislative Audit Commission before resigning from that panel last summer to apply for the auditor general post. Mautino's father, the late state Rep. Richard “Dick” Mautino, served in the House from 1975 until his death in 1991.
In May, the state election board ordered Mautino to provide more details about his campaign expenditures during his time as a state legislator. That same month, the board also discussed Cooke's complaint during a closed session, permissible under state law, then announced that Cooke's complaint was found to be justifiable.
In June, Mautino's legal counsel filed a motion to stay, stating that Mautino otherwise would be forced to choose between waiving or claiming his rights under the Fifth Amendment because of a pending, parallel federal criminal investigation.
In addition to the motion, Mautino also declined to comply with the election board's deadline to amend his campaign reports and clarify expenditures, prompting more calls for answers or his resignation.
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