Integrity commissioner ends probe of controversial $10K exchange

The controversy over a $10,000 cash exchange between developer Benny Marotta and Coun. Gary Burroughs is over, the town says, after the municipality's integrity commissioner ended his investigation of the incident.

Ted McDermott, the town’s integrity commissioner, "concluded that there are no grounds before him to warrant further investigation,” Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa said in a town news release.

"He came back and said there was nothing to investigate," Burroughs said in an interview.

McDermott reported his decision to the town at the end of May, chief administrator Marnie Cluckie told The Lake Report. She said it is confidential and cannot be released.

Cluckie said the commissioner's decision was brought to council at a closed session on June 20.

"There was no public report by the integrity commissioner so there was no report to bring forward publicly," she added.

"The integrity commissioner operates under a duty of confidentiality with respect to all matters," Cluckie said.

However, Burroughs told The Lake Report in an interview he learned of McDermott’s decision a month ago but did not speak about it publicly until now.

Burroughs said one reason the town could not deliver the news sooner was because both he and chief administrator Marnie Cluckie were on vacations during the summer.

“I'm not happy it took so long, but it did,” he said.

He said he was sure part of the decision was to “just let it ride and nobody will think about it.”

He’s been pushing the town to make a statement, all the same.

“As a longtime politician, it's about my integrity,” he said.

Burroughs said he’s been approached by people over the last few months who have congratulated him on “being cleared.”

“I never did understand what I was supposed to have done wrong,” he said.

The Niagara Regional Police decided in April not to investigate the affair further.

“Council has concluded that the matter is closed,” Zalepa said in the statement.

The controversial exchange took place March 4, Burroughs said, and he’s been waiting ever since then to share his side.

At that time, Marotta handed Burroughs an envelope with $10,000 in cash inside.

The controversy was first reported by The Lake Report and at the time both men said the exchange was not political.

Marotta said it was meant to support Burroughs’ 2022 municipal campaign, but the campaign had long since wrapped up.

Burroughs attempted to return the money March 5, and Marotta encouraged him to give it to his church if he could not use it for his campaign.

On March 6, he informed Cluckie, who asked Marotta to retrieve the cash.

Burroughs said he was “devastated” in the beginning at the impact to his reputation.

His family was “under great pressure” throughout the incident, he said.

Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report