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Good Enough for Government Accounting: Junk Shop Treasure and Two (Allegedly) Crooked Auditors

First the good news (treasure discovered!) and then the bad news (some auditor generals are allegedly corrupt.)

Arkansas' first auditor kept a journal

Whenever I'm sifting through junk at Salvation Army, I dream of finding a treasure that'll A) land me a coveted spot on Antiques Roadshow and B) fetch me a small fortune at auction. (The best I've done so far is a $3 Kate Spade purse that turned out to be a knockoff and a $.50 “Eat Your Heart Out I'm Married” t-shirt. Hey — a bargain is a bargain.)

But history buff Philip Palmer rescued an actual treasure in a junk shop: the 1836 journal of the first auditor of Arkansas. He donated it to the Arkansas State Archives as a birthday present to the state.

The journal offers a fairly comprehensive look at life in early Arkansas, containing records of the state's finances, correspondences between state officials and other notes on early Arkansas history, including railroad development during the California Gold Rush.

The journal also includes entries written by the state's first auditor and fifth governor, Elias Conway.

The journal is not available to the public just yet, though. According to Arkansas' state archives historian and director, “the journal might be displayed at some point on rotation in the archive's exhibits. Eventually, Speer said, she hopes to see the journal's documents digitized and available to the public and those interested in the state's history.”

Other government-audit related news is not so good…

Washington State auditor faces retrial

In April, a federal jury acquitted Washington State Auditor General Troy Kelly of one charge and “deadlocked on the 14 other federal felony counts” Those included “theft, money laundering and tax evasion in connection with a real-estate records business Kelley owned before his 2012 election as state auditor.”

The charges allege that Kelley stole [$3 million] “by keeping fees that should have been returned to the clients.” He had faced up to 20 years in prison.

Since the trial, Kelley has ignored demands for his resignation, returned to office, and fired his chief of staff and his communications director. Washington Governor Inslee has sent Kelley a letter “questioning why the auditor asked for the 'resignation of multiple senior-level employees.'"

Now prosecutors have announced that they'll retry Kelley in March 2017 on those jury-deadlocked charges. The trial will come a few months after his term as State Auditor General expires. What a mess.

But Washington isn't the only state whose top auditor is in trouble…

Illinois Lawmakers Ask State's Auditor General to Step Down Amid Federal Probe

Illinois is home to the ultimate hot dog paradise: Portillo's. (ILU, Portillos. You will always have a special place in my heart, mind, and arteries.) Aside from Portillos, Illinois is also home to some pretty corrupt politicians.

Fun Fact: Illinois boasts not one, not two, but FOUR governors who've been imprisoned for misconduct.

So I guess it's not surprising that the state's top auditor, Frank Mautino, is now the subject of a federal probe related to “campaign-related spending at his old job.”

According to Chicago Tribune:

Mautino's campaign records showed he spent more than $200,000 at the same auto repair shop and service station during a roughly 10-year period. While it's common for lawmakers to use their campaign funds to pay for fuel and vehicle expenses, Mautino's costs seemed high. Many payments to the auto shop, Happy's Super Service in Spring Valley, were made in round numbers of more than $1,000 each.

Mautino also spent heavily at a one local restaurant owned by his family. Watchdog groups have noted other issues, including payments to Spring Valley City Bank that don't seem to make sense.

Twenty-one Republicans signed a letter June 2 urging Mautino to take an unpaid leave of absence from the auditor general's office "until the various federal and state investigations into your past financial conduct are concluded."

Although Mauntino has not officially been accused of wrongdoing, the charges could “could uncover only sloppy bookkeeping — a breach that might incur state fines but nothing more.”

Okay, so a little sloppy bookkeeping doesn't seem so bad… until you consider this point from the Trib: “We're talking about the auditor general, whose office's main responsibilities are auditing and bookkeeping.”

Yeah, okay. If your auditor general can't handle basic accounting, that's not good, especially for a state riddled with crooked officials.

Did we mention that this is Illinois, where the auditor general ought to feast on other officials' mismanagement and public corruption?

Also a good point.

Mauntino is six months into a ten year appointment, so hopefully, for Illinois' sake, his accounting skills improve and fast… If only his “hard skills” were subject to the same Draconian performance reviews, am I right? He'd be a “needs improvement” all the way.