For days, newly appointed Auditor General Frank J. Mautino of north central Spring Valley has been getting hammered by government watchdog groups and some downstate newspapers for his spending habits while he was a Democratic member of the Illinois General Assembly.
Some pretty significant questions. For instance:
How could his campaign have racked up $55 a day in gas and auto repairs over the past decade? Could he explain why so much campaign money was spent for meals at his wife's family's restaurant in Spring Valley? Why did another family business, Mautino Distributing Company, once owned by his father and now owned by his cousin, receive a large bump in state business after he became assistant majority leader to House Speaker Michael Madigan in 2009?
You don't have to be an ideologue to ask these questions.
Susan Garrett, formerly a Democratic state senator from Lake Forest and now chairwoman of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, told MyWebTimes.com that Mautino has some explaining to do.
"These expenses certainly raise eyebrows," she said.
For the most part, Mautino has not provided answers.
Finally, the other day, his public relations spokesman, Ryan Keith, issued a statement saying that in 24 years in the House, Mautino "provided exemplary service to his communities and built a record of a number of legislative accomplishments."
Beyond that, the statement declared only that Mautino complied with all disclosure laws and that his expenses were "reasonable."
Notice anything missing?
Like answers to the questions?
In a state with as sordid a reputation as Illinois, the office of auditor general is an important one. It's one of our few ethical checks on government spending.
The auditor general ought to be someone who is independent of state politics. That the position is now occupied by a former lieutenant of the speaker is unsettling enough.
These unanswered questions only compound the problem.
In our editions on Wednesday, Adam Andrzejewski called in a Guest View for Mautino's resignation. His organization. OpenTheBooks.com, and the Edgar County Watchdogs group have been leading the charge looking into Mautino's spending.
We don't echo Andrzejewski's call for a resignation. Not yet anyway.
But we do call for answers. And if Mautino doesn't supply them, our legislators should demand them.