HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — The same sheriff who was a keynote speaker at a Grand Rapids rally against the governor’s stay-at-home COVID-19 order is, himself, working from home over fear of the virus, Target 8 has learned.
Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, 55, confirmed that he is working most of the time from home, despite having no underlying conditions that could make him more vulnerable.
A tip led Target 8 to the sheriff’s home outside Hastings.
Leaf refused to come outside but agreed to meet at the sheriff’s department.
The sheriff, who is a Republican, spoke last week to a reported crowd of 300 at Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-home order. It got him national attention.
He compared the order to mass arrest.
“We’re not stupid, governor, can you hear us?” he told the crowd. “We know what to do. Open us up. Come on.”
Leaf, who’s been sheriff 16 years, is reportedly among a number of sheriffs in Michigan who believe they, not the governor, have the authority to uphold laws in their counties.
“People are tired; they’re tired of being at home, and they want to get out,” Leaf told Target 8 on Monday.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has warned that the sheriffs are setting a dangerous precedent by arbitrarily enforcing laws.
The sheriff said he’s had no cases of COVID-19 at his department. He said he works mostly from home and only occasionally goes into the office over fear he could get the virus and spread it.
“If I had the virus, COVID(-19) itself, and it infected one shift of mine, that’s 25 percent of my workforce and that would cause great harm,” Leaf said.
When asked if he could wear a mask, he said: “Yes, I could.”
Leaf did not wear a mask in Tuesday’s interview with Target 8. He said only a handful of his employees — those who are older or with pre-existing conditions — are working from home. The rest, including guards and deputies, are essential, he said.
When asked to justify working from home while protesting the stay-home order, he said: “People are ready to get back to work.”
Leaf later reached out to Target 8 to give another reason. He said he and the undersheriff are both working from home to stay healthy in case other command officers get sick. If that happens, he said, they could fill in.
The sheriff says he expects some employees who’ve been working from home to return to the office soon. But he didn’t say when he would return.