Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 23, 2014

Lawyer board clears former Meijer attorney

TRAVERSE CITY — A lawyer accused of lying under oath about Meijer Inc.’s illegal political activities in Acme Township has been cleared of wrongdoing.

The Michigan Attorney Discipline Board issued a ruling on Wednesday that cleared Grand Rapids attorney Timothy Stoepker.

“The hearing panel, having reviewed the exhibits and testimony, found no facts to support the allegations that Mr. Stoepker was untruthful or otherwise acted improperly,” the panel said in the ruling.

Stoepker and his attorney, Donald Campbell, did not respond to requests for comment.

The complaint against Stoepker stemmed from his representation of Meijer in the corporation’s pursuit of a store off M-72 in Acme Township. The store is now under construction.

Amid details that became public during a lawsuit, Meijer officials admitted they secretly and illegally 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 of some board members’ store opposition. Former Acme Township Treasurer Bill Boltres filed a harassment suit against Meijer in 2007 after the retailer sued him and other Acme officials for opposing the store.

The Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission filed a complaint against Stoepker in 2013, alleging he lied when asked during a 2007 civil deposition in the Boltres case about his knowledge of Meijer’s political activities in Acme.

“I have no knowledge,” Stoepker said twice during the deposition when asked about Meijer’s secret work to affect local elections.

But the commission alleged that Stoepker indeed knew about Meijer’s political work in Acme. From 2005 to 2007, the commission said Stoepker provided legal representation to Meijer for the local referendum vote and recall election. The commission also said Stoepker contracted with a local public relations firm to provide services regarding the attempted recall of local officials.

A May 5 hearing was held in Grand Rapids before a three-judge panel of the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board. Stoepker testified during the hearing and denied any wrongdoing.

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