Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 8, 2013

Meijer attorney misconduct case to continue

TRAVERSE CITY — Former Meijer, Inc. attorney Timothy Stoepker obtained a narrow victory in his appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, but still faces a hearing for allegations of misconduct.

The Michigan Supreme Court denied Stoepker’s request that the justices dismiss charges that could cost him his law license. The state Attorney Grievance Commission alleged Stoepker, of Grand Rapids, falsely testified under oath during a lawsuit deposition about his alleged role in Meijer’s illegal campaign activities. The allegations have been pending since 2009.

The top court did agree to dismiss charges that he committed criminal violations of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act at the time because that section of law was found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The fact there had been this criminal statute in effect at the time, we will not be able to rely on that,” said Robert Edick, deputy grievance administrator who is prosecuting the case against Stoepker. “But it doesn’t change the fundamental nature of the misconduct we are alleging.”

The complaint against Stoepker stems from his representation of Meijer in the corporation’s pursuit of a store off M-72 in Acme Township. Meijer officials admitted they secretly spent more than $100,000 on lawyers and a public relations firm to fight a 2005 township referendum and also to support a 2007 effort to recall the township board because some board members opposed the Meijer development.

The Attorney Grievance Commission alleged Stoepker falsely testified under oath during a lawsuit deposition about his alleged role in Meijer’s illegal campaign activities.

Grievance commission action held for years while criminal and civil court actions played out. Then Stoepker appealed the charges to a panel of three Kent County attorneys who heard his case and then to the full disciplinary board. Both unanimously denied his motions.

“It grinds on ... but the various side streets they can go down are closing rapidly,” Edick said.

The Supreme Court also denied a motion filed by Meijer, Inc. attorneys to prevent Stoepker from revealing potenitally confidential information.

The court ruled Meijer attorneys can file a written statement of their position, known as a brief, with the hearing panel.

A hearing date has not yet been set.

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