NewsMetro Detroit NewsInvestigations

Actions

Romulus Mayor makes changes to campaign following 7 investigation into spending

Campaign compliance attorney hired, wife replaced in campaign role
Posted at 3:09 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 18:29:36-05

ROMULUS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Romulus Mayor LeRoy Burcroff quietly made changes to his campaign fund and contributed a significant amount of his own money following questions raised by 7 Action News.

In October, a 7 Action News report highlighted the spending habits of Mayor LeRoy Burcroff and other Michigan politicians.

Michigan law allows for spending related to campaigning or performing one’s job as an elected official, but personal use of any funds is not allowed.

On Burcroff’s campaign statements, his family members show up frequently. More than $6,000 worth of payments have been made to his children, his brother and even his son-in-law f or expenses like office rent and campaign office maintenance.

Several family members were reported as receiving “charitable donations” from the campaign.

The Mayor has dipped into his fund to pay for $3,800 in recurring “memberships” at the nearby Belleville Yacht Club, plus thousands more listed as “donations,” including payments totaling over $4,400 that coincided with his daughter’s wedding held at the very same club.

RELATED: Yacht clubs. SUVs. Paying family. See how Michigan leaders spend campaign funds.

Burcroff sidestepped questions outside city hall last fall about whether the fund paid for any portion of his daughter’s wedding and if his spending has always followed the law.

His campaign also reported more than $10,000 in mystery credit card payments to American Express and US Bank. Michigan law requires payments to credit card companies be itemized, but in case after case Burcroff did not.

“There could be something that explains all this, perhaps there’s not,” said attorney Steve Liedel, an expert in campaign finance law. “But folks can’t figure that out unless they’ve got the information to do that.”

In Romulus, news of the mayor’s spending raised concern among some residents.

“I was disappointed to see that the Romulus Mayor was involved in this,” said William Maze, who’s lived and worked in Romulus for more than 20 years.

“The silence was deafening when he refused to answer any questions regarding his campaign funds,” Maze said.

Following WXYZ’s October report, Burcroff’s next campaign filing reported changes to his campaign.

The Mayor made two huge deposits into his account only days after 7 Action News started asking questions: $25,000 on September 18 and another $15,000 just four days later.

Records also show that Burcroff's wife had been removed as campaign fund record keeper, replaced instead with an attorney, Dan Wholihan, who specializes in campaign finance compliance.

Reached by phone, Wholihan would not say why Burcroff hired him or whether he was trying to address any potential violations with campaign spending.

“I have no comment,” Wholihan said before hanging up.

Channel 7’s Ross Jones attempted to question Burcroff about the changes to his campaign during last week’s meeting of the Romulus City Council, held on Zoom. Though he was present, Burcroff kept his camera off and did not respond to repeated inquiries.

“I was upset that the mayor chose while he was on the line to not respond to those questions,” Maze said, “and we were left with awkward, long silence.”

While neither Mayor Burcroff nor his campaign attorney ultimately spoke with 7 Action News, a political consultant recently hired by the campaign, David Forsmark, said by e-mail that Burcroff’s wife resigned as campaign record keeper because she found better ways to support her husband’s campaign.

Forsmark said that Burcroff’s $40,000 campaign contribution was not an admission of wrongdoing, but was to help “prepare for the battle” for when the Mayor is up for re-election next year.

In his previous seven years as Mayor, the most Burcroff had ever donated to his own campaign was $1,000, records show.

“At the end of the day, he serves at the public’s pleasure and he’s accountable to the public,” Maze said. “And when you’re asking those questions on behalf of the public, it’s important that he come forward and give you some kind of a response.”

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.