Title Icon What is a Comptroller?

The Comptroller's Office was created by the Constitutional Convention of 1970 as an expanded replacement for the Office of the Auditor of Public Accounts. The Office of Comptroller traces its ancestry to 1799 when an auditor of public accounts was established under the jurisdiction of the Northwest Territory. Elijah Conway Berry served as Auditor of Public Accounts when Illinois was a territory of the United States and continued his duties as Auditor when Illinois became a state in 1818. Berry's successor, James Stapp, took office when he was only 27 years of age.

Several colorful personalities held the office during the 19th century. James Shields, who served from 1841 to 1843, challenged Abraham Lincoln to a duel over unflattering newspaper editorials he attributed to Lincoln. The conflict between the two state officials was resolved before any bloodshed occurred, but the incident serves as an interesting footnote in the history of the office. The office existed under the name Auditor of Public Accounts until the state's first elected Comptroller took the oath of office in early 1973.

In 1970, Illinois' latest constitution established the Comptroller as an elected officer in the Executive Branch of state government. Illinois citizens select the state's Comptroller in statewide elections. By law, the Comptroller is the state's Chief Fiscal Control Officer, responsible for the legal, efficient, and effective operations of state government.

Illinois' first Comptroller, George W. Lindberg, was inaugurated in January 1973. By July 1974, he had initiated the Office's first automated accounting system. Comptroller Lindberg vitalized the office by providing understandable explanations of complex fiscal issues. Following Lindberg, nine individuals have served as Comptroller: Michael J. Bakalis served from 1977 to 1979, Roland W. Burris from 1979 to 1991, Dawn Clark Netsch from 1991 to 1995, Loleta A. Didrickson from 1995 to 1999, Dan Hynes from 1999 to 2011, Judy Baar Topinka from 2011 to 2014, and Leslie Munger from 2015 to 2016. Susana A. Mendoza was elected to the office in 2016.




In 1812, H. H. Maxwell was appointed the Auditor of Public Accounts by Ninian Edwards, Governor of Illinois Territory. At that time, Illinois Territory extended north to Canada, including nearly all of Wisconsin and large segments of Upper Michigan and Minnesota. Of H.H. Maxwell, we know nothing except his name and tenure.


Daniel Cook was one of the most remarkable men in Illinois History. Cook County was named after him and he was recognized as the prime mover for Illinois statehood. Within his short life, he also served in Congress, ran a newspaper, served as a judge, and fought successfully to keep slavery out of Illinois.

April to August 1817

Robert Blackwell assumed the Auditor's duties for a very short time while Daniel Cook was on a voyage to London. Probably the shortest term served!


Elijah Berry was the last Territorial Auditor and the first State Auditor. Berry was best known as the father of Col. James W. Berry, an artist, who painted portraits of Gov. Bond and Gov. Coles. These paintings currently are hung in the Capitol building in Springfield.


In 1831 when Elijah Berry resigned as the Auditor of Public Accounts, Stapp was appointed to succeed him. He was known as the first capitalist in Decatur, Illinois. Stapp was in the Auditor's office in the Vandalia capitol when the young Abraham Lincoln took his seat for the first time as a member of the Illinois General Assembly.


Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter of recommendation to Governor Joseph Duncan on behalf of Levi Davis who became the 3rd State Auditor. When his appointive term as Auditor ended, he was elected by the legislature in 1837 and again in 1838. During his period of service, the state capitol was moved from Vandalia to Springfield.


James Shields was considered one of the most fascinating characters in the roster of Illinois' Auditors of Public Accounts. In 1842, a series of letters appeared in the Sangamo Journal ridiculing Shields regarding the failure of the state bank. Shields was later informed that Abraham Lincoln was responsible. Shields challenged Lincoln to a duel, which he accepted, but the duel never came off. He was the first man in U.S. history to be a Senator from three different states.


Auditor Ewing was the only Auditor who died in office. Within a period of 25 years, he was Governor, Lt. Governor, U.S. Senator, State Senator, State Representative, Speaker of the House, President pro tem of the Illinois Senate, Clerk of the House, an Indian Agent, a soldier, and a lawyer.


Thomas H. Campbell, the sixth Illinois Auditor, devoted most of his working life to the office. He was hired as a clerk in the Auditors office and held the position until the death of Auditor Ewing when Governor Ford appointed him to fill the vacancy. Campbell suffered from ill health after leaving the office and died in 1862 when he was only 47.


Jessie K. Dubois, the seventh Illinois Auditor of Public Accounts, was the first Republican to hold the office. On the recommendation of Lincoln, he was nominated and elected. The period of Dubois' tenure as Auditor was one of the most eventful in history, including the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the beginning of the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Battle of Gettysburg, and Sherman's march through Georgia.


Orlin H. Miner was the eighth Illinois Auditor of Public Accounts. A Republican, he was elected on the Union Party ticket with Abraham Lincoln. During his term, President Lincoln was assassinated and the Civil War ended. The University of Illinois, originally the Illinois Industrial University, was founded at Urbana. Construction of the new Capitol at Springfield was authorized and the cornerstone laid.


Dr. Charles E. Lippencott, physician, soldier, and public officer was the ninth Illinois Auditor of Public Accounts. The present state Constitution became effective during his term. Other events during his term in office included the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the creation of the Illinois National Guard, and dedication of the Lincoln Monument by President Grant at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield.


Little is known about the 10th Auditor of Public Accounts, Thomas B. Needles. In those times, the sales tax was unknown. State government was supported almost entirely by the property tax.


Charles P. Swigert, the 11th Auditor of Public Accounts, was born in Germany in 1843. From Germany, his father moved the family to a farm in Kankakee County. When the Civil War started Swigert, only 18, enlisted as a private in the Volunteer Army. During the siege at Corinth, Mississippi his right arm was shot off by a cannonball. In 1880 he was elected State Auditor and re-elected in 1884.


Charles W. Pavey, the 12th State Auditor, was a hero of the Civil War. He was a prisoner of war for 23 months, but instead of being executed, Pavey was removed by the Confederates to a prison in North Carolina. In 1865 he rejoined his command by an exchange of prisoners. In 1888 he was nominated and elected on the same ticket with Joe Fifer who was elected Governor.


David Gore, the 13th Auditor, was a successful farmer and inventor. At 19, he enlisted in the army and served until the close of the Mexican War. Later he began farming in Macoupin County, where he invented the sulky plow, a reaper, and a simple method for laying drainage tile. He served in the Illinois State Senate for two terms and was elected Auditor in 1892.


A hero of the Civil War, James Skiles McCullough was Illinois' Auditor of Public Accounts for four complete terms. Three different Governors served Illinois during his long tenure: John R. Tanner, Richard Yates, and Charles S. Deneen.


Illinois' State Auditor, James J. Brady, was originally a telegrapher and bartender whose personal affairs became front-page headlines. Auditor Brady married Mary Quinlan Kuhn Brady secretly and invalidly only two days after she had divorced Charles Kuhn. In 1914, Mary Quinlan Brady filed a breach of promise suit that was eventually settled out of court, on terms never divulged.


Andrew Russel, the 16th Illinois Auditor, died in prison after a long career in politics and banking. He spent 44 years in the banking business and was president of the Illinois Bankers' Association. Russel was vice-president of the Ayers National Bank, Jacksonville when it failed in 1932. Russel's overdrafts had reached $1,303,000.00. He was indicted for misapplication of bank funds and was sent to the federal detention farm at Milan, Michigan where he died at age 79.


Oscar Nelson, the 17th Illinois Auditor, was a banker who closed more banks than any other Auditor. He was born in Sweden and rose from a delivery boy, grocery clerk, foundry worker, and railway worker to the president of the Geneva State Bank and head of the Kane Co. Bankers' Association. Nelson was brought to trial on a charge of misfeasance for delaying closings of banks long after he knew they were in poor financial condition. Judge Edward Shurtleff directed the jury to acquit the Auditor saying the courts had no jurisdiction to try a state officer.


During the eight-year administration of Edward Barrett, the office of the Auditor reached its peak of authority and influence in state government. A veteran of both World Wars, he is the only public official who has held three different state elective offices: Treasurer, Auditor, and Secretary of State.


During Lueder's tenure, the 63rd General Assembly added supervision of currency exchanges to the Auditor's responsibilities, in addition to state banks, trust companies, building and loan associations, and credit unions. Withholding of income tax payments from state employee's paychecks originated during his term in office.


Illinois' 20th Auditor, Benjamin Cooper brought modernization to the Auditor's Office. Automatic machines replaced obsolete manual processes and a new type of state warrant on card stock was introduced, replacing a larger paper check. These card warrants were coded by keypunch for faster handling in record-keeping machines. Cooper sponsored legislation which was enacted to make microfilm records admissible evidence in court.


Orville Hodge used his legislative knowledge and skill to obtain a budget for his office $2.5 million higher than was needed in the previous biennium. Despite this increase, he spent money so freely he ran dry before the end of his term and had to be bailed out by the legislature with a $525,000.00 emergency appropriation. He had embezzled more than $1 million from phony state warrants; misappropriated another half million of liquidating funds of closed banks and robbed the taxpayers of another million by padding illegal expense accounts, illicit expenditures, fraudulent contracts, and waste. He was indicted for conspiracy to embezzle state funds by forging state warrants and for misappropriation of bank funds. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison. Upon release, he returned to Granite City to work quietly in his sister's hardware store.


Lloyd Morey, Illinois' 22nd Auditor, served only six months in office. When Orville Hodge was sent to prison, Morey filled out the expired term. When Morey was appointed Auditor, all of state government was in shock over the revelation of Hodge's embezzlement. The first complete reform program was developed under Morey's administration.


Elbert S. Smith, 23rd Illinois Auditor occupied the office during its radical reorganization. During his term, roughly $2 million was recovered for the state from the liquidation of assets conveyed by Orville Hodge.


When Michael J. Howlett was elected, he began reorganizing the office immediately for greater efficiency. With help from a management consulting firm, he was able to reduce payroll, eliminate duplication of functions, and save money. By the middle of 1962, he reduced headcount to 172 employees, the smallest for many years.




George W. Lindberg was elected Illinois' first Comptroller on November 7, 1972, following three terms in the Illinois House of Representatives. He authored the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act, requiring disclosure of financial interests by public officials and candidates for public office. In 1973, Lindberg made a complete disclosure of his 1972 campaign spending and income. His revelation of personal political spending was a first in Illinois for a statewide officeholder, an act which drew him editorial praise.


Michael J. Bakalis was elected Comptroller in 1976. This was the second statewide office held by Bakalis, who began his political career in 1970 when he was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction. Bakalis has authored numerous articles and professional publications and currently is on the faculty of J.L. Kellogg School of Management.


Following his first election as Comptroller in 1978, Roland W. Burris became the first African American to hold statewide office. An attorney and former bank official, Mr. Burris was actively involved in the social and community life of Illinois. He was recognized for his contributions to Illinois and national economic, political, and civic development. Mr. Burris was the recipient of the Government Finance Officers' Association Award for Financial Reporting Achievement.


Dawn Clark Netsch was the first woman elected to a State Constitutional Office in Illinois. Netsch served in the Illinois Senate, representing the 13th Legislative District from 1973 to 1983 and the 4th Legislative District from 1983 to 1991, serving as chairperson of the Senate Revenue Committee and co-chairperson of the Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission, the General Assembly's fiscal research unit. As a state senator, Netsch was recognized as a distinguished expert on state fiscal policy. She also served on the Appropriations, Executive, Education, and Rules committees.

Netsch was frequently honored for her accomplishments in government from such groups as Common Cause (National Public Service Achievement Award), the Illinois Environmental Council, the Illinois Humanities Council (with Walter Netsch), the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, the Pro-Choice Alliance, the Illinois Public Action Council, the Illinois Education Association, and the YMCA (Outstanding Achievement Award).


Believing that government must work "smarter and smaller," Loleta Didrickson streamlined state government by eliminating unnecessary procedures and paperwork, introducing technology to the workplace, and by adopting sound business practices to ensure fiscal accountability. The four goals Comptroller Didrickson set for the office were: SAMS Project (Statewide Accounting Management System), Debt Collection, Electronic Commerce, and Service, Effort, and Accomplishments (SEA).


Dan Hynes was elected to his first term as Comptroller in 1998 and, at age 30, was the youngest constitutional officer in Illinois since William Stratton was elected state treasurer in 1942. Hynes focused his administration on consumer and taxpayer advocacy, government accountability and long-term budget reform. During his three terms in office, he earned a national reputation as a no-nonsense fiscal expert. Hynes led the fight for ethics reform, resulting in a landmark law that would greatly curb pay-to-play politics in Illinois and restore people's trust in state government. For his leadership on ethics reform, Hynes was awarded the Paul Simon Service Award from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, as well as the Abraham Lincoln Ethics Award from the Executive Ethics Commission.


Judy Baar Topinka was elected Comptroller in 2010. Beginning her political career in 1980, Topinka became the first woman elected to two State Constitutional Offices, having been previously elected to three terms as State Treasurer. In her first year as Comptroller, Topinka proposed an operating budget that returned the office to 2003 funding levels. Believing in hard work, plain talk, and common sense, Topinka immediately began pushing an initiative to combine the offices of State Treasurer and Comptroller. This objective was discussed during a time of dire financial strains for the State of Illinois.


Leslie Geissler Munger was appointed Illinois State Comptroller on January 12, 2015, following the passing of Comptroller Topinka. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois and her master’s degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She was a community volunteer and leader for the Riverside Foundation, a not-for-profit residential facility for developmentally disabled adults in Lincolnshire, where she was named Volunteer of the Year in 2013. Comptroller Munger also served on the School District 103 Foundation Board for seven years and spent three of those years as president. In 2004, she was named Lincolnshire's Citizen of the Year.


Susana A. Mendoza became the first Hispanic independently elected to statewide office in Illinois when she was elected Comptroller on November 8, 2016 in a special election to complete the term of her friend and former comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. She took office December 5, 2016 and was re-elected to a full term in 2018. Prior to becoming Comptroller, in 2011 she became the first woman elected Chicago City Clerk and served into her sixth term (2001-2011) in the Illinois House of Representatives. As Comptroller, Mendoza has transformed the office, shifting priority to payments to nursing homes, hospice centers, schools and the state's most vulnerable citizens. During and since Illinois' 2015-2017 budget impasse, Mendoza pushed for stability, comprehensive budget solutions and open and transparent financial reporting — winning accolades from bond rating agencies. Mendoza initiated a transparency revolution in State government, working with legislators of both parties to introduce and pass transformative legislation to make financial information more publicly available than ever before, including the Debt Transparency Act, the Truth in Hiring Act, the Budgeting for Debt Act and the Vendor Payment Program Transparency Act.?When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020, Mendoza established a public, online portal showing coronavirus-related State spending on necessary supplies in Illinois’ fight against the deadly virus. Comptroller Mendoza lives in Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood with her husband David, their son David Quinten, and her mother.



December 8, 1969 - September 3, 1970

Section 17. Comptroller-Duties.

The Comptroller shall, in accordance with law, maintain the state's central fiscal accounts, order payments into the treasury, and issue warrants against any funds held by the treasurer.

Explanation and Commentary

This definition of the scope of the new Comptroller's duties allows the legislature to determine what central fiscal accounts shall be kept while requiring that whatever such accounts are prescribed shall be maintained by the Comptroller rather than some other officer. It further writes into the Constitution the long existent and common prohibition against the Treasurer receiving funds into the treasury without accounting officials having previously made entries of the proposed deposits on their books.

The language regarding the issuing of warrants is modified from the existing provision in Article IV, Section 17, which should be repealed in whole or in part. The words "in accordance with law" are substituted for "except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law," now in that article, to allow the legislature to make continuing appropriations when these are deemed necessary, and to allow the legislature to define the scope of the central accounts. Appropriations for more than two years, or continuing over a longer period of time, are now precluded by interpretations of the Constitution of 1870, even though often desirable. This is true of leases intended to cover a period of more than a single biennium. The result is the inability to enter into some types of needed contracts and the necessity of reappropriations, which complicate budgetary proceedings and artificially inflate appropriation levels when a project is not completed within a single biennium.

As to the scope of the central fiscal accounts, suffice it to say that at present there are many essentially artificial differences between monies held by the Treasurer "in the treasury" and those held by him "outside the treasury." The intention of the rewritten provision governing the Comptroller is to apply sound fiscal controls to all such holdings.

We do not think it is wise to insert language from vesting non-fiscal duties in the Comptroller, or in the Treasurer for that matter. We do, however, anticipate that any such miscellaneous duties that continue to be placed in these officers will involve only minimal distractions from their major obligation of handling the state's fiscal processes.