by Ulysses Arn
"Sunlight is the best disinfectant"
When it comes to Illinois' penitence for corruption and political back scratching and all of the shenanigans that come with it, as the saying goes when it rains, it pours.
On January 1st Frank Mautino, a 25 year Democrat state Representative from Spring Valley, officially took over the duties of being Illinois' Auditor General. Mautino a long-time top lieutenant to Democrat Party boss and Speaker of the House(not to mention Tyrant) Michael Madigan was appointed to the position and was easily approved in the fall by the veto-proof Democrat super-majority. The Auditor General is responsible for maintaining financial oversight of the tens of billions of dollars the state of Illinois spends very year. Republican state Senator Jim Oberweis, and 10 House Republicans(Andersson, Batinick, Frese, Ives, Jesiel, McDermed, Morrison, Phillips, Wehrli, and Wheeler) voted against Mautino being Auditor General.
A little examination of Mautino's own campaign expenditure reports however, raises serious questions about Mautino's ability to ever do that job.
Government transparency and accountability experts Adam Andrzejewski , founder of Open The Books, and the Edgar County Watchdogs looked at Mautino's campaign committees expenditures and found that from 2005 tell the end of last year when Mautino closed down his role as state Representative spent $213,338.31 on gas and "campaign vehicle" repairs at Happy's full service gas station and service shop. Further examination by USofArn.com shows that from January 1st of 1999, which is as fair back as state online records go, up to 2004 Mautino spent an addition $30,735.21 for gas and repairs to his "campaign vehicle" for a total of $244,073.52 over 16 years.
Either Frank Mautino is the worlds worst driver, He can't bring himself to get rid of a lemon, or Happy's is the worst mechanic shop in Illinois. To that last point a review of Happy's at the Better Business Bureau shows very little other than one complaint. However, Happy's is not listed as a business with the Illinois Secretary of States office.
What is sadly much more likely to be the case is that Mautino and Happy's, owned by Spring Valley resident Fred West, had some kind of scam going where Mautino would use his campaign funds to pay someone with or at Happy's for some yet to be determined reason.
Attempts to get documentation from Mautino is going to be hard because among the things he did late last year is shred decades worth of documents dating back to his farther who was also a state lawmaker. It is the fact that Mautino himself talked about that and soliciting $16,000 in campaign donations in the fall to pay off debts that had paid off months prior that has put the spotlight on Mautino and this apparent crooked deal.
Records show that Mautino never used any other mechanic or gas station in Spring Valley and there are several of both. Those records also show that Mautino liked to use his campaign funds to eat at local restaurants at almost a weekly clip for $15 to $45 a pop, as well as paying for his cable TV and subscriptions to the Springfield based Capital Fax website run by Rich Miller who is notorious for taking money from everybody.
The nearly quarter million dollars in payments to Happy's insistently jump out at you when they are examined because of the repeated use of round dollar amounts for all purchases, roughly 3/5th's of all repairs and fill-ups have zeros in the cents column. Many of those fill-ups of gas had to be for 70 gallons of gasoline at a time(and more in some cases) and records do not show Mautino having a semi truck.
What vehicle Mautino was driving around, or vehicles is not known at this time. Mautino himself has yet to respond to request for comment and more information. Andrzejewski has demanded that Mautino make whatever records remain available to the public immediately. Attempts by USofArn.com to get answers from the staff at Happy's were unsuccessful, as have attempts to reach Happy's owner Fred West, who just happens to have been elected to the Spring Valley city council in April of last year. Just before the election West told the LaSalle News-Tribune, "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.”
Further review of Mautino's expenses to Happy's also shows another troubling trend. From January of 1999 to 2003 nearly every purchase at Happy's was under $1,000, most ranging from $150-700. Then in 2004 and continuing up to the end of the year those repairs all started costing more than $1,000 each, many of those more than $2,000. After Mautino was made Deputy majority leader by Madigan in 2011 several of those repairs at Happy's started becoming $5,000 each.
Additionally those purchases at Happy's came at approximately 3 week intervals, with several months long periods resulting in multiple payments totaling thousands of dollars in a 6-12 week span.
For example from September 28, 2001 to November 14, 2001 Mautino spent $1,293,70 at Happy's over four stops. Eight trips to the "repair shop" from August 1, 2003 to November 4, 2003 cost Mautino $2,749.81. Another of these bunch payments in late 2004 totaled $5,641.80. Those payment clusters and there increasing amounts continued on tell the end of Mauntino's tenure in the state House. Indeed some of that $16,000 Mautino solicited to close down his office, went to Happy's, several thousand dollars.
When you shine a light on Illinois politics, you find rats, with deep ties to Michael Madigan.