SORE notes, with deep concern, the recent Town statement and media coverage on the unsolicited $10,000 cash envelope given by Benny Marotta to Councillor Gary Burroughs.
We leave it for the police to properly and thoroughly investigate this matter specifically, whether Mr. Marotta was engaged in an attempt to bribe a public official contrary to the Criminal Code. In the interim, the basic facts do not, on our understanding, appear to be in dispute. Councillor Burroughs met with Mr. Marotta. Councillor Burroughs was given an envelope and told to read the contents later. When he opened the envelope, he discovered it contained $10,000. Councillor Burroughs is on the record as saying that at no time did he request money from Mr. Marotta for any purpose. Upon discovering the money, Councillor. Burroughs promptly reported it and turned the money over to the Town.
We simply observe the obvious – Mr. Marotta has several contentious projects in front of Council. Mr. Marotta would benefit greatly from favourable decisions from Council, including in relation to the historic Rand Estate. We also note media reports of past questionable conduct by Mr. Marotta and his companies in other municipalities. See the Benny Marotta Media Archive on the SORE website.
This unfortunate situation puts the Town and Council under a cloud that neither has asked for. Some have suggested that Councillor Burroughs is in a conflict for being handed the money. Shouldn’t the more appropriate question be, how can Council possibly make a decision on any matter involving Mr. Marotta and his companies, while the issue of whether Mr. Marotta attempted to bribe an elected Councillor remains unresolved?
As for the investigations currently underway, we hope for a speedy and thorough police investigation. SORE strongly believes there cannot be too much transparency in how these proceedings are handled. The Town should disclose the requests filed with the Niagara Regional Police (“NRP”) and the Integrity Commissioner (“IC”). What exactly have the NRP and the IC been asked to investigate and what has each been told?
The NRP (as noted in the March 30th Lake Report) are reported to be conducting a “contribution investigation.” What is that, exactly and how does that square with the facts as we understand them? Does that include a possible Criminal Code offence? Is this an isolated incident?
And has the IC been asked to comment on how Town and Council should be interacting with Mr. Marotta and his companies while this matter remains under investigation? Will the IC comment on whether Councillor Burroughs has a conflict in dealing with decisions affecting Mr. Marotta’s companies?
This matter is extremely important and has the potential to significantly damage the reputation of the Town and our elected Council. It may have already. Let’s be open, honest and transparent in bringing this to a speedy resolution for everyone’s benefit.
We understand that no charges were laid as a result of the NRP investigation.