State Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet) has a problem with her repeated claims on the campaign trail that she is a certified public accountant (CPA). She also has a problem with how long she’s claiming to have been a CPA.
In reaction to the mayor of Joliet’s State of the City address in February, Manley told an interviewer that she had been a CPA for more than 20 years.
In March, she told residents of the Carillon retirement community in Plainfield that she had been a CPA for over two decades.
On Oct. 9, in debate with her Republican opponent Alyssia Benford before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, she gave a different version, saying that she had been a CPA since 2004.
The regulatory body overseeing public accountants, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations (IDFPR), tells a different story both about the length of time Manley has been a CPA and her professional status in the eyes of state regulators.
For one, the IDFPR has Manley’s CPA license status as “inactive.” Second, an employee in the Public Accounting section of IDFPR told the Will County Gazette that Manley was first licensed as a CPA in 2010.
Before that, from 2006 to 2012, she was listed as a registered CPA. (The Department employee couldn’t explain how her license was backdated from 2012 to 2010.) There are no records of her before that.
The licensed vs. registered distinction is an important one.
According to the “Licensing & Registration” page of the Illinois CPA Society’s website, both registered and licensed CPAs are permitted to “hold themselves out” publicly as CPAs. Both can preform “accountancy activities,” but only a licensed CPA can perform financial audits and reviews.
Licensed CPAs, moreover, are required to take 120 hours of continuing education every three years – the courses place a strong emphasis on ethics.
The society’s website further says that in 2006 “it became law that in order for anyone to hold themselves out as a CPA to the public in Illinois, they must have an active license or registration with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).”
“Failure to maintain an active registration or license with IDFPR while using the CPA designation in an active manner, may result in IDFPR issuing a ‘cease and desist’ order, and the person may be found guilty of a Class B misdemeanor and fined.”
Class B misdemeanors in Illinois carry a maximum penalty of up to 6 months (180 days) imprisonment in the county jail and a maximum fine of $1,500 plus any mandatory court costs. The defendant may also be placed on a period of court supervision, conditional discharge or probation for a maximum of 2 years
In an Oct. 24 debate with Alyssia Benford at WJOL radio, Manley did not challenge Benford’s charge that she (Manley) lied about her CPA status and history surrounding her license. Benford is a licensed CPA.
“She lied to the Sun-Times Editorial Board last week that she has been licensed since 2004,” Benford said in the closing statement portion of the debate. “She isn’t even currently licensed as a CPA in the state of Illinois. If someone will lie about their profession they will lie about anything.”