TRAVERSE CITY -- A judge's warning may put an end to former Acme Township Treasurer Bill Boltres' quest to get to the bottom of election manipulations in Acme Township.
A two-hour hearing this week in 13th Circuit Court featured accusations of slander, ethics violations, back-stabbing and possible legal malpractice, but Judge Philip Rodgers also outlined financial risks to Boltres if he continues a lawsuit against The Village of Grand Traverse LLC.
Boltres hopes to convince Rodgers that The Village violated state campaign laws, similar to violations committed by Meijer, Inc., The Village's would-be development partner in Acme. But Boltres must submit to questioning by lawyers for The Village, and his statements could undermine a confidentiality agreement with Meijer, which paid Boltres an undisclosed sum to settle a 2007 suit he filed against the retailer.
If Boltres violates the agreement, he could forfeit the money he received from Meijer.
"Rodgers is so concerned about the risks that it stopped me in my tracks," said Grant Parsons, Boltres' attorney. "He's telling me that if I keep pursuing this lawsuit it may not be in my client's best interests."
Meijer and The Village sued Boltres and other Acme officials personally in 2005 amid a zoning battle over a proposed mega-mall along M-72 that was to be anchored by Meijer. Meijer later publicly admitted it violated campaign finance laws when it tried to secretly manipulate township elections in 2005 and 2007.
The Village denied it was involved in either election, though it paid related legal bills in 2005 and one of its partners acted as a liaison between Meijer operatives and local residents later exposed as front groups for Meijer, court and state records show.
Boltres then sued The Village in 2008 for malicious prosecution. In both suits he said the actions harmed his health.
Rodgers ruled The Village has a right to determine how much harm Meijer caused Boltres, meaning Boltres must answer questions about how Meijer harmed him through its actions. Rodgers said testimony on that topic likely would violate the confidentiality agreement.
"This is an incredibly important decision for (Boltres) and this case," Rodgers said. "He's exposing his estate to a significant penalty."
Boltres agreed to go forward with depositions -- his second round in The Village lawsuit -- but it was postponed after he suffered a stroke and was moved into a nursing home. Boltres also is battling lung cancer and heart failure.
Parsons said at this week's hearing that Boltres "does not want the case dismissed" and would arrange for the deposition to be taken at the nursing home.
Boltres had to be moved back to Munson Medical Center Tuesday and Parsons did not know if he could complete the depositions.
Rodgers gave Boltres until Sept. 4 to complete the deposition or he will dismiss the case.
For complete coverage of Acme Township's dispute with Meijer and The Village, see record-eagle.com/meijer-acme