Will questions about auditor affect College of DuPage probe?

 
 
Updated 5/5/2016 8:16 PM
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  • Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino, a Spring Valley Democrat, was appointed to the post last year after being a longtime lawmaker.

    Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino, a Spring Valley Democrat, was appointed to the post last year after being a longtime lawmaker. Associated Press File Photo

A suburban Republican lawmaker cast doubt on a high-profile, ongoing audit into the College of DuPage's operations because of the campaign spending questions dogging Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino.

Republicans led by state Rep. Grant Wehrli of Naperville sent Mautino a letter asking for an explanation into campaign expenses that include more $200,000 in auto repairs to a single service station over about a dozen years.

Democrats and Republicans last year approved a state audit of College of DuPage in the wake of a large severance package given to former President Robert Breuder.

But when asked about the COD probe, Wehrli was critical.

"I'm sorry, but 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," he said.

Consequences?

The auditor general oversees regular audits of lots of state agencies. Detailed probes have sparked a handful of scandals and played a part in the impeachment trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Mautino is a former Democratic lawmaker appointed to the post by lawmakers last year.

Asked what consequences Mautino might face if he didn't respond to Republicans' requests for answers, Wehrli said they're still examining their options.

Response

"We will review Rep. Wehrli's letter once we receive it and provide a prompt response to him," Mautino spokesman Ryan Keith said in a statement

Timing

As some conservative leaders nationwide murmur about backing an independent or third-party candidate for president, Illinois law shows they'd need to hustle.

For one, an independent or new party candidate needs 25,000 signatures to get on the November ballot -- and needs to turn them in by June 27.

For another, state law says if you've lost a bid for a party's nomination in the primary, you can't run as an independent in November. But a candidate could run as part of a new party, top State Board of Elections attorney Ken Menzel said.

That could cause headaches should one of the former candidates for the GOP nomination want to run as an independent, though there might be legal workarounds.

And that's not to mention all the political difficulties of running as a third-party candidate.

A founder of the politics juggernaut Politico suggested last month that even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg could be an option.

Of course, Zuckerberg is 31 years old, and you need to be 35 to be president.

Details, details.

'The very existence'

Suburban mayors were at the Illinois Capitol this week to push back against a property tax freeze and attempts to use local revenue to help balance the state budget.

And they wanted to try to make sure their gambling and gasoline tax money won't be taken hostage in the ongoing budget fight.

In other words, the same fights as last year.

"It's a constant battle for us," Roselle Mayor Gayle Smolinski said. "We're always in a defensive posture down here."

Some of the mayors said they'd be OK with a property tax freeze as described by Rauner, with local control provisions that Democrats have argued are anti-union.

Still, they said one approved by the House last week would be trouble for them.

"The things that are being put forth right now are threatening the very existence of municipalities," Smolinski said. "And right now, municipalities, I think I can state and everybody would agree, are the only things that are working in this state."

New try at new map

The deadline has passed for lawmakers to try to amend the state constitution to change the way Illinois draws its legislative maps, one of Gov. Bruce Rauner's top priorities.

But Friday, the ballot initiative group known as Independent Maps is set to turn in "nearly 600,000" signatures to the State Board of Elections in an effort to get their similar proposal on November's ballot.

They might face a court challenge, but after stalls in Springfield this week over map drawing, education, taxes and the lieutenant governor, the Independent Maps effort could be the only surviving constitutional proposal that might end up on voters' ballots in six months.

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