Senator alleges cover-up over boat dock incident involving Whitmer's husband
LANSING — A state senator says Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office attempted to cover up an incident in which Whitmer's husband allegedly tried to use his position to jump the line and get his boat in the water on a northern Michigan lake.
Whitmer's office is refusing to comment on whether her husband, dentist Marc Mallory, cited his position as "First Gentleman" when he contacted NorthShore Dock LLC, north of Traverse City, before the Memorial Day holiday.
"We’re not going to make it a practice of addressing every rumor that is spread online," Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said Monday.
But state Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, said he removed his own Friday Facebook post about the incident after Whitmer's office told officials in the Senate GOP leader's office the report was false — only to later receive further confirmation that led Barrett to believe it was in fact true.
"I was drawn into a cover up by the Governor and her staff," Barrett said on Facebook Monday.
"In the Army leaders eat last after every one of their soldiers has eaten," said Barrett, a U.S. Army veteran. "They lead by example. Real leaders don’t cut in line and not follow their own demands placed on the rest of us."
The alleged incident has drawn international attention, including an article in London's Daily Mail.
Tad Dowker, an owner of NorthShore Dock, said in a widely circulated Facebook post late last week Mallory contacted his company about getting a boat in the water at the family's northern Michigan cottage ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.
The reported call from Mallory came after Whitmer announced she was easing her stay-at-home order in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, but cautioned at a May 18 news conference that Michiganders who do not live Up North should think "long and hard" before heading up there and risking the spread of COVID-19.
Dowker, who later removed his Facebook post but has stood by its contents, said he "was out working when the office called me" and said "there was a gentleman on hold who wanted his boat in the water before the weekend."
Because it was a holiday weekend and the company was three weeks behind due to the stay home order, there was "no chance" that would happen, Dowker said in the post.
His staff explained that to Mallory, who said: "I am the husband to the Governor," and asked whether that would make a difference, according to Dowker's post.
"As you can imagine, it does make a difference, that would put you to the back of the line!!!" Dowker said on Facebook. "Needless to say, our Governor and her husband will not be getting their boat" for Memorial Day.
"Too good not to share," Dowker said. "I love it when karma comes around, even if just in small doses."
Whitmer's family owns a lakefront cottage near Elk Rapids, records show.
Though polls show broad support in Michigan for the stay home order and other actions Whitmer has taken to control the spread of COVID-19, she has also faced severe criticism, demonstrations, and even death threats. State Republicans have pushed for a more rapid reopening of Michigan's economy, particularly in areas of the state less impacted by the virus, saying the governor's actions have needlessly harmed many businesses that could operate safely.
More:Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extends Michigan stay home order to June 12
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On Friday, Whitmer extended the stay home order through June 12, while announcing further easing, including gatherings of up to 10 people with social distancing and increased access to retail stores. Theaters, gyms, hair salons and barber shops remain closed, and except for Up North, bars remain closed while restaurants are restricted to carry out and delivery service.
“There’s been a lot of wild misinformation spreading online attacking the governor and her family, and the threats of violence against her personally are downright dangerous," Brown said.
Brown did not immediately respond to Barrett's allegation of a "cover-up." Spokeswoman Chelsea Lewis said Whitmer would address the issue at a Tuesday afternoon press briefing.
Barrett said he verified that Dowker's post was authentic before he shared it on his Facebook post but decided to remove his own post late Friday night after officials in the governor's office reached out to the office of Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, to say the allegations were false.
"On Saturday morning I was quickly able to reverify the content from the original post," Barrett said. "However, I also learned that the owner of the business had determined that it had turned into a distraction from the work they were desperately trying to make up for from the weeks-long government imposed shutdown, and therefore he did not want to pursue it further.
"Instead I privately sent word back to the governor’s office that I would never again give them the benefit of the doubt."
However, Barrett said that late on Saturday night, NorthShore Dock issued a statement that "confirmed the sentiments from the original post," while adding that Mallory was respectful and understanding when told the company could not schedule the boat installation ahead of the weekend.
"Once that statement was public I felt comfortable to contact the media to tell my side of the story and how I was drawn into a cover up by the governor and her staff," Barrett said. "Now instead of denial they simply 'won’t respond' to questions about it."
Dowker and the company did not respond to calls on Sunday and the Saturday statement from NorthShore Dock can no longer be accessed on Facebook.
Staff writer Elisha Anderson contributed to this report.
Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.