ROMULUS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Romulus Mayor LeRoy Burcroff is acknowledging that thousands in campaign expenses first questioned by 7 Action News may have crossed the line.
Since earlier this year, Burcroff’s campaign has been under investigation by the Michigan Secretary of State. The investigation was prompted by a complaint outlining a series of expenses first raised in our reports.
In May, Burcroff’s attorney Daniel Wholihan sent a letter to the state acknowledging that Burcroff used his campaign fund to cover $4,500 in expenses from his daughter’s wedding. He also admitted to using nearly $15,000 from the fund to make regular donations to his own church.
In both cases, Wholihan said Burcroff initially received advice from an attorney that the expenses were appropriate, but understands now that the Secretary of State may disagree.
Earlier this year, Burcroff said announced he would not seek re-election.
Last year, 7 Action News first questioned payments from Burcroff’s fund for local yacht club memberships, charitable donations to family members and the purchase of a Jeep Wrangler.
“It’s a bit out of the ordinary,” said campaign finance attorney Steve Liedel back in December. “I think you’re right to ask questions.”
For the first time, Burcroff—through his lawyer—is detailing the purposes of some of the questioned expenses, acknowledging that $4,500 was used to cover the open bar at the Belleville Yacht Club for his daughter’s wedding.
Still, his attorney argued the wedding also doubled as a campaign event, since many of those attending the wedding had also worked on his campaign.
Campaign finance experts weren’t sold by that argument.
“If the wedding of your own daughter could be a campaign event, what sort of event cannot be a campaign function?” asked Simon D. Schuster, the Executive Director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
“That broad latitude that elected officials have to at least attempt to explain away potentially inappropriate financial transactions is striking,” he said.
Even Burcroff’s attorney admitted that the Mayor paying for his daughter’s wedding created “poor optics,” and that it may not ultimately be deemed a legal expense by the Secretary of State, who is still investigating.
He said Burcroff has since repaid the nearly $5,000 expense to his campaign.
Through his attorney, Burcroff also acknowledged using funds from his campaign to make steady donations to the church he attends instead of using his own personal funds.
The donations totaled nearly $15,000.
Again, his attorney acknowledged that the Secretary of State may not deem those payments allowable as well, so Burcroff paid them back.
In total, he returned $20,000 to his campaign after 7 Action News questioned his expenses.
“Does this seem to represent, in my mind, an offering of contrition?” Schuster asked. “Perhaps. I think it remains to be seen whether the department would find that amenable.”
The Secretary of State declined to comment on the status of their investigation into Burcroff, which is ongoing.
But as for Burcroff’s membership at the Belleville Yacht Club and a Jeep Wrangler he paid for with campaign funds, the mayor said he won’t be paying anything back for those.
Both, he said through his lawyer, were only used to further his campaign duties or his duties as Mayor.
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (248) 827-9466.