Democrat wants Illinois' top auditor to step aside during federal probe

A suburban Democrat has asked Illinois' top auditor to take a leave of absence following his acknowledgment that federal investigators have questioned him about campaign expenses.

With a letter sent Wednesday, state Sen. Laura Murphy of Des Plaines becomes the highest-profile Democratic official to take Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino to task for campaign expenses that have drawn increased scrutiny in recent months.

Among the expenses is more than $200,000 in about a dozen years at a single service station in his former legislative district.

"I believe a leave of absence would be in the best interest of state government and the taxpayers of Illinois," Murphy writes in a letter. "Once the probe is complete and only after the cloud over your office has lifted would it be appropriate for you to return to work as auditor general."

A Mautino spokesman declined to comment but has said in the past the Spring Valley Democrat is working to provide more thorough answers.

Republicans in recent weeks have demanded answers from Mautino, who was approved for the job late last year. State Rep. Grant Wehrli, a Naperville Republican, said any audit work that comes out of Mautino's office is tainted, potentially including an ongoing look at College of DuPage's operations.

"If our auditor general cannot be forthright with his own expenses and auditing practices, then I place a high level of scrutiny on ... any work product coming out of the office under his leadership," Wehrli said last month as Republicans pressed for answers.

Murphy is a freshman Democrat who was appointed to her Senate seat earlier this year following the resignation of Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge. She said voting Mautino into the job was one of her first actions in office.

"I kind of feel duped," she said. But she said if he's eventually cleared, Mautino should be able to continue in the role.

Mautino was a longtime Democratic lawmaker and budget negotiator for the Illinois House Democrats, and his appointment to the post came months before questions about his campaign spending arose.

He replaced Bill Holland, who gained widespread bipartisan respect and whose office played a role in the impeachment trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

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Laura Murphy
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