HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — A controversial West Michigan sheriff is at the center of a legal battle after he claimed the state hampered his investigation into unfounded allegations of November 2020 voter fraud.
Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf has filed a lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims accusing Attorney General Dana Nessel, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and the Michigan State Police of illegally blocking his investigation. The lawsuit alleges that the state is investigating his office and has interviewed one of his deputies under subpoena.
In the lawsuit, the sheriff claims that he had received information that voter fraud and voting machine fraud was taking place in Barry County before, during and after the November 2020 election. The lawsuit doesn’t provide details of those allegations.
The allegations came at the same time former President Donald Trump’s campaign was making unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.
Leaf claims it is his constitutional duty, and his alone, to investigate alleged election fraud in his county. He alleges the state obstructed and interfered. He accused the state of unlawfully seizing voting machines and records and of threatening, harassing and interfering with witnesses, local government officials, including township clerks, and his deputies.
Leaf is no stranger to controversy. He led protests against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order while Target 8 found Leaf, himself, working from home.
Among the allegation in Leaf’s lawsuit: That state and federal officials from an “undisclosed government agency” raided the Irving Township hall in Barry County this spring and seized voting equipment. Target 8 confirmed last month that a state police investigation that started in Roscommon County early this year had reached Irving Township.
In Roscommon County, Secretary of State Benson asked the AG and state police to investigate reports her office had received that an unnamed third party was given access to vote tabulator components and technology. Unauthorized access to machines is a breach of election security protocols and may have exposed the machines to vulnerabilities that make them unusable in future elections, Benson said.
In Barry County, Irving Township Supervisor Jamie Knight told Target 8 on Monday that state police detectives had seized one of the township’s vote tabulators. She said she hasn’t heard anything more about the investigation.
State police say the investigation is still active.
In Hastings Charter Township, Supervisor Jim Brown told Target 8 that the sheriff in March filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the county’s township clerks for November 2020 voting records.
“This is a criminal investigation, so no information shall be redacted from requested materials,” the sheriff’s FOIA request stated.
Hastings Charter Township not only denied the request but also sent the sheriff a $1,309 bill for legal fees and a strongly worded letter (PDF).
“Per our lawyer, this request should have never been submitted,” the supervisor wrote. “We suggest you and your office concentrate on the law enforcement duties that our taxpayers elected you to do as per your mission statement. Potential legal actions are not something your department needs and would just reduce the resources your department requires to get your job done for Barry County taxpayers.”
Target 8 tried reaching the sheriff on Monday but a clerk at his office said the sheriff’s attorney had directed him not to comment.
The sheriff has asked for a hearing before the state Court of Claims. No date has been set.
The AG, secretary of state and state police refused to comment.