Stone Park mayor under fire after wife receives loan from campaign fund

If you need to borrow money, you'd probably go to a bank.

But for the wife of one elected official, getting a loan was as easy as tapping into her husband's campaign fund.

Millions of dollars are collected and spent on political campaigns every year, for TV commercials, yard signs, offices and staff.

But look what FOX 32 found while combing through a disclosure statement filed two weeks ago by the Neighbors in Action Party of Stone Park: A $6,350 dollar loan made last May to Gabriella Mazzulla, who happens to be the wife of Ben Mazzulla, who’s the mayor of Stone Park, who is also one of the candidates supported by the political fund.

"I was shocked because quite frankly this is unprecedented, very unusual type of spending," said Sarah Brune of the political watchdog group Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

FOX 32 News showed what we found to Brune.

"Campaign funds don't exist to benefit the friends and family of a candidate. That’s not the purpose of them. They are to elect a candidate to a public office," Brune said.

So why would a political campaign make a personal loan to the mayor's wife?

FOX 32 knocked on a lot of doors in Stone Park trying to find out.

Thomas Godfrey, a Stone Park trustee who is chairman of the party, told FOX 32 he knew nothing about the loan.

"You would think that I would know, but if it was done sneakily..." Godfrey told FOX 32.

The campaign's treasurer, trustee Loretta Teets, who would presumably have cut the check, told FOX 32 she had no comment.

And Mayor Mazzulla told FOX 32 he knew nothing about the loan to his wife when we first contacted him last week.

But the day after we talked to the mayor, according to state campaign records, Gabriella Mazulla suddenly paid the loan back in full, without interest.

"Yeah, that's really troubling, and I think it clearly raises another red flag," Brune said.

But here's the thing: According to state election officials, there's nothing in Illinois law that would prohibit a political campaign from making a personal loan.

"It does not appear prohibited, provided it is a legitimate loan," an election official told FOX 32, who also said if a formal complaint is made then they will investigate to determine whether there was any loan agreement drawn up or it was just a handshake deal.

Watchdogs say this points out the need for tighter reporting requirements.

"There shouldn't be a double standard for politicians versus the average voter. Everyone should be treated the same. And just because you're a family member of a politician doesn't mean that this large sum of money should be available to you," Brune said.

It’s believed a complaint will be filed about the loan, possibly by a member of the political opposition in Stone Park.

Gabriella Mazzulla also has a job on the public payroll, working in the human resources department for Proviso Township High School District 209.