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May 20, 2024

Illinois State Auditor General Mautino – Campaign records could be problematic for top auditor.

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On January 21, 2016

Bureau County – Illinois (ECWd)

Frank Mautino was appointed to be the Illinois State Auditor General in October of last year and began his official duties January 1st, of 2016, although not without some red flags getting raised.

The Illinois times reported on numerous campaign donations and expenditures that took place between his appointment and his start date of what is supposed to be a non-political office.  While serving in that post the law forbids him to be active in any political affairs, regardless of party affiliation.

The post he now holds is a ten year term.  His primary job is to ensure state funds are being spent legally.  That position requires neutrality as it relates to politics but it also should be a position that demands a personal record that is fully vetted and compliant with all laws in order to ensure the highest level of trust.

It’s his office that is responsible for the performance audit currently being done at the COllege of DuPage (COD).  That being the case, just as we looked into the HLC members personal problems at his college in these articles here, here, and here, why not look into the matters of the top Auditor in charge of the COD audit?

The Illinois Times reported Mautino said “he needed money during the fourth quarter to pay for routine office expenses as well as the costs of closing up shop, including the cost of shredding documents from his career as a legislator as well as from his father’s prior 16-year career in the House.”

Who seriously raises money for the purpose of shredding documents?

They also referenced numerous gas and vehicle repair expenditures from the campaign coffers to the tune of $2,300.00. As a mechanic, that peaked my curiosity.  What kind of repairs did he have and what can you spend campaign money on?

Reading the election code is like making your way through the Chicago Loop traffic at 5 O’clock in the afternoon.  If you’ve never been there you may end up going in circles.  What we do know, Sec. 9 of the statute outlines what expenditures a political committee shall not make.  One in particular jumped out at us when reviewing records of Mautino’s, which was Sec. 9-8.10(a)2.

(10 ILCS 5/9-8.10)
Sec. 9-8.10. Use of political committee and other reporting organization funds.
(a) A political committee shall not make expenditures:
(1) In violation of any law of the United States or of this State.
(2) Clearly in excess of the fair market value of the services, materials, facilities, or other things of value received in exchange.

Looking back as far as 1999 we see Mautino has an affinity for Happy’s Super Service Station.  Considering the amount of campaign money spent at that one facility, I am betting that affinity is a two way street.

Either Mautino drives a true piece of junk or the mechanics are taking him for a ride………….regularly!  Or is it possible there is much more to these campaign gas/repair expenditures?

Records provided from the State Board of Elections regarding his expenses reflect Mautino could have purchased several brand new vehicles with full warranties with the campaign money he spent on repairs of his vehicle, assuming that is what really happen.

Mautino spent $213,338.31 on fuel and repairs for his campaign vehicle between March of 2005 and December 2015.  Even more if you go back a few more years.  His campaign itemized expenditure reporting indicates $20,914.20 of the $213 thousand  was used specifically for gas purchases during that same time frame,  all at the same gas station, Happy’s Super Service Station.

Using the very figures from his itemized expenditures covering ten years and nine months, Mautino’s expenditures average approximately $54.42 of campaign money every day during that time frame for gas and repairs to his campaign vehicle.

Think about that for a minute!

$54.42 every day of the week, every week of the month, every month of the year, for Ten years and nine months!

Is there ANYONE in this state that spends $54.42 a day on fuel and repairs, every day of the year for over 10 years?  How many brand new vehicles could be purchased with that kind of money that have a full warranty, which means no repair costs?

Although we have not found the purchase or lease of a campaign vehicle listed, one can only wonder why he would spend $213,338.31 on fuel and repairs on any vehicle since March of 2005…… the same Happy’s Super Service Station, again, assuming that is what really happen.

Having audited our fair share of financial records the most common red flag is round numbers.  When you see a lot of them it deserves a closer look in most cases.

Out of 387 itemized entries in the time frame referenced, 35% of them were whole numbers.  Most accountant’s would look at that as entries that deserve more attention.  Having been a mechanic my whole life as well as an FAA licensed Air-frame & Power plant mechanic, I have seen my share of repair bills and let’s just say I have rarely seen any that were round numbers like those we see in the itemized listings.  I found 137 such entries out of 387 since March of 2005.  I would bet if every one of our readers were to go back and look at their own repair bills there would be fewer than 1% that could find one that was a perfectly round number.

For example:

  • 3/29/2005 –  $1,200.00
  • 4/11/2005 –   $300.00
  • 6/13/2005 –  $1,500.00
  • 4/13/2007 –  $1,200.00
  • 6/12/2007 –  $1,200.00
  • 12/06/2007 -$1,500.00
  • 1/18/2008 –  $1,100.00
  • 2/08/2008 – $1,000.00
  • 6/16/2008 –  $3,000.00
  • 11/10/2008 -$1,100.00
  • 9/11/2008 –  $2,100.00
  • 12/16/2008 -$1,000.00
  • 2/26/2009 – $851.00
  • 3/24/2009 – $600.00
  • 5/08/2009 – $1,500.00
  • 6/16/2009 –  $800.00
  • 10/06/2009 – $1,000.00
  • 12/03/2009 – $925.00
  • 2/10/2010 –  $1,500.00

Is there anyone that believes each and every one of those gas/repair bills just happen to round out to an even number?  And for the record, those are just a small example of what we found.   There are many more just like it you can view in the documents below.

This example below is again, just a small sample of what is being spent on repairs and in many cases thousands every month or every other month.

  • 8/30/20005 – $2,190.71
  • 11/08/2005 -$ 2,610.99
  • 1/18/2006 -$1,112.42
  • 7/06/2007 -$2,234.23
  • 8/01/2007 – $1,209.52
  • 10/03/2007 -$ 1,837.33
  • 11/07/2007 -$1,608.69
  • 4/30/2008 – $2,088.58
  • 10/08/2008- $1675.26
  • 7/03/2008 – $1,538.31
  • 08/04/2008 – $1,820.09
  • 4/02/2009 -$874.01
  • 8/07/2009 -$2,242.93
  • 4/12/2011 -$3,615.07
  • 5/18/2011 -$2,007.75
  • 6/14/2011 – $1,874.18
  • 7/22/2011 -$2,227.50
  • 08/02/2011 -$1,860.11
  • 09/09/2011 -$2,119.17
  • 11/02/2011 – $5,811.41
  • 12/16/2011 -$ 2,605.30
  • 01/17/2012 -$2,723.68
  • 03/05/2012 – $5,164.45
  • 04/09/2012 -$2,689.31
  • 05/01/2012 -$2,540.90

What are the odds of two purchase for gas are identical four days apart?   7/19/2013 – $18.96  and  7/23/2013 – $18.96

What are the odds that again, two purchases for gas are identical  eight days apart?  2/26/10 – $61.05  and  3/06/2010 -$61.05

Personalize this by asking yourself, what are the odds that you fill your tank two different times and it just happens to end up with the same exact dollar figure down to the penny, not once but twice!   Time to by a Power ball ticket?

August 15, 2010 a gas purchase was made for $225.24.  According to the US Energy Information Administration, the Chicago area fuel prices, which are the highest in the state, two days from that date in 2010 was $2.83 a gallon.

That would indicate approximately 79 gallons of gas was purchased. Is this another indicator that it might be worth looking a little deeper?

Is there anyone in this state driving a campaign vehicle that has a 79 gallon gas tank? 

Considering there is no public access to the actual receipts for these purchases we are left with few options other than to request the Auditor General to be transparent and publicly release all of the records for expenditures at Happy’s Super Service Station, and possibly others yet to be itemized like this one.

Oh, wait, that wont happen because he just acknowledged the reason he had to raise more money was so he could shut down his campaign and shred documents of not only his campaign but his fathers as well.  Does the shredding of records have anything to do with what we are seeing with just one of the many campaign expenditures to a single entity?

Is it time for the Governor or others to demand an Audit of the top Auditor’s campaign records?

Looking at the election code I suspect an argument could be made that the services he was getting on his vehicle were clearly in excess of fair market value.  If the States Board of Elections were to rule that those expenditures did in fact violate 10 ILCS 5/9-8.10 a(2) then he might have a real issue on his hands.  Can we trust our top Auditor if his own expenditures are found to be in violation of the law?

Next we tried to find a listing on the Secretary of State web site for Happy’s Super Service Station.  No such listing showed up as a registered company in Illinois even though numerous searches claim they are an Illinois Corporation. (Copy of search results here)

Turns out the owner, Fred West is also a Spring Valley alderman for the second ward.  He is standing on the far right in a grey shirt in this photo.

Fred West

A question presented to West before his election by the News Tribune may have more meaning than realized at the time.  What will you do for the city if elected?  “I would really like to focus on infrastructure. I would stay close to Frank Mautino. He’s our link to the state here. He would be able to tell us what grants we could get or what we can qualify for.”

Considering his business has received over $213 Thousand dollars in business in just over 10 years, I would think about staying close to him as well, provided all these expenditures were legitimate.

The record below, beginning with page 16, reflects gas purchases totaling $20,914.20 and gas/repairs totaling  $192,424.11 for a grand total of $213,338.31, all spent from his campaign fund.  It’s even more if you start with page 1.

My request for some answers pertaining to this information resulted in no response of any kind, either directly or through their media contact.  How convenient!

I would hope that the top Auditor in the state is willing to lead by example and produce the records on these purchases as anything less will lead to distrust towards him and the office he holds.

If the excuse becomes he doesn’t have them because they were shredded, it may be worthy of some digging by the right agencies to see what the services station reported on their taxes.

And rest assured, every time we see this kind of stuff, there is always more behind the scenes to be discovered and exposed.  I predict there will be plenty more information that comes out over the next several weeks.

The main question now, who can force an Audit on the Auditor?

All indications are there are only a few options.

  • The General Assembly could pass a resolution demanding this be investigated.
  • A citizen could file a complaint with the State Board of Elections for improper spending of campaign money.
  • Federal Authorities could open an investigation to look into the tax records of Mautino and the service station enriched with campaign dollars to verify what really happen.

Regardless of what happens, anyone who has ever owned a vehicle knows you dont spend this kind of money on repairs without making a decision to find a better vehicle.  Based on that pesky little fact, now we must ask the bigger question.

Can we trust our top auditor’s decision making ability and does he even have the qualifications to be our top Auditor General?

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  • brushtoniltimes
    Posted at 08:25h, 21 January

    Nice piece of work by the Edgar County Watchdog–I should have dug deeper:

  • chris roblng
    Posted at 09:02h, 21 January

    It’s the polar opposite of what Illinois taxpayers deserve, but a classic case. Madigan pulling the state down from the heights of Holland to the mendacity of Mautino. Taxpayers, beware.

  • web staff
    Posted at 09:03h, 21 January

    Good reporting Kirk. Leaving Illinois seems to be the only option. I assume your facts won’t matter.

  • Frank
    Posted at 10:48h, 21 January

    Like a good neighbor….Happy’s Super Service is there!

    I will bet the shredder Mautino used would make former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay blush!

  • Theodore P. Hartke, PE, PLS, President, Hartke Engineering and Surveying, Inc.
    Posted at 14:38h, 21 January

    If “Happy’s Gas Station” is not registered as Illinois Corporation, I wonder if Fred West reported this on his income taxes. It would be really awesome to get money from a campaign fund and then never have to report the taxes on that income. That is a really sweet deal, but certainly not fair to tax payers. This could be a slush fund…….this campaign account covering the maint. and gas lots of vehicles and gas for lots of friends and family members?

  • Raul
    Posted at 09:20h, 23 January

    This scheme only scratches the surface of the local Democratic Mautino machine. Take a look at State leases in the area for salt barns and vehicle maintenance, all friends and aldermen.

  • Art Moak
    Posted at 10:07h, 23 January

    Wow, that sure was a huge bunch of straw men.

  • Janet Davis
    Posted at 09:50h, 24 January

    I think he got a pretty sweet opportunity there, it’s ashame that Illinois politicians feel that they can keep taking advantage of the tax payers! He has been in office way too long and needs to be replaced with someone that will be honest and start caring about the state of affairs in Illinois!

  • Craig
    Posted at 13:00h, 27 January

    The day he started his new job was my first day as an Indiana resident, after living in Illinois my whole life. My advice. Get out while you can.