Mautino allegedly admits to violating state transparency laws in lawsuit response
Nearly one year after a government watchdog group exposed the questionable campaign spending of Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino that launched state and federal investigations, Mautino’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit is confirmation that he broke state laws, the group claims.
Kirk Allen, co-founder of the Edgar County Watchdogs, filed the FOIA lawsuit last May, following what he believed to be an attempt by the office of the Auditor General to conceal public records that were subject to a FOIA request submitted last February -- violating transparency laws established by the state.
Mautino’s answer to the allegation indicating that the “Office of Auditor General and Frank J. Mautino, admit the allegations contained in (No. 10) of the complaint,” is proof that Mautino broke the law, according to Allen.
“In the answer to my lawsuit, provided by Assistant Attorney General Karen McNaught on behalf of Auditor General Frank Mautino, they acknowledge they did not provide certain records that were subject to my FOIA request,” Allen said on the watchdog’s website.
According to the lawsuit, on Feb. 9, 2016, Allen sent a FOIA request to Mautino’s office seeking copies of public records that included any communication received and responded to within the past 30 days pertaining to Mautino’s campaign records. Mautino’s office reportedly responded via email, indicating that the records had been mailed because they were too large to email.
Allen received the documents in the mail a few days later, but stated in his complaint that many of the records had nothing to do with the requested information, and approximately 60 emails appeared to have been redacted of any content, with only the header information available, according to the complaint.
On Feb. 14, 2016, Allen served Mautino’s office with a second FOIA request seeking copies of any communication received and responded to specifically between Feb. 10-15.
Allen claimed the documents he received subsequent to his second request did not contain all of the information requested.
“It is clear that a total of six public records were concealed in my FOIA request,” Allen said on the group’s website shortly after. “Based on the response from the auditor general in his letter attached in both responses, none of the above identified documents are referenced as being denied or redacted. It is clear the records were concealed without lawful authority. Now the question is, was the concealment of these communications done with an intent to defraud?”
The scrutiny began soon after Mautino took office in January 2016 when his disclosure reports showed extravagant spending: over $200,000 on gas and vehicle repairs over the span of 11 years to Happy’s Super Service in Spring Valley, which is Mautino’s hometown, and irregularities in payments to Spring Valley City Bank. The expenditures took place during Mautino’s 24-year tenure as state representative.
Other questionable expenses in Mautino’s reporting included an additional $30,000 in state travel reimbursements for legislative duties and service on audit commissions since 2005 -- paid by taxpayers' money; $271,417 in state agency payments to family-owned Mautino Distribution Company since 2005, with increased annual payments occurring after Mautino’s promotion into Madigan’s House Majority leadership team in 2009; $33,000 paid to his wife’s family’s pizza restaurant since 1999; and $273,973 paid to a local bank from his campaign fund.
Last June, amid mounting pressure from federal investigators and the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE) to explain the extravagant spending, Mautino -- through his attorney, Tony Jacob -- asked ISBE to give him more time to respond to the board’s request for information.
In July, 20 Republican legislators filed a joint House resolution calling for House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) to have Mautino removed from office while investigations continued. Mautino, however, remains in office.
After a series of delays, and virtually no explanation from Mautino, the campaign finance hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 3.
“We once again call for the immediate resignation of Frank Mautino and do so based on his admission to violating our transparency laws,” Allen said. “We the people must have trust in our government and when the top auditor for our state violates our laws, admits to it after being sued, then we can no longer trust any other work he does.”