TRAVERSE CITY -- A secret deal closed the book on a series of lawsuits that for years enmeshed Acme Township public officials and development partners Meijer Inc. and the Village at Grand Traverse LLC.
Former Acme Township Treasurer Bill Boltres reached confidential settlements with the Village and Meijer during a closed hearing in 13th Circuit Court on Monday. Boltres, in frail health and confined to a wheelchair, did not comment on the deals, nor would his attorney or representatives of Meijer and the Village.
Boltres sued the Village last year and accused the developer of malicious prosecution for its alleged role in targeting Acme elected and appointed officials with lawsuits stemming from a development fight that dates to 2004.
Boltres obtained an undisclosed sum from Meijer in late 2007 after he sued the Grand Rapids-based retailer in a similar malicious prosecution case.
Boltres' suit against Meijer unearthed the retailer's illegal manipulation of Acme elections in 2005 and 2007 and prompted the Michigan Secretary of State to order Meijer to pay $190,000 in fines and costs for violating state campaign finance laws.
That settlement contained provisions that called for significant financial penalties if Boltres talked about the Meijer agreement. Meijer intervened in Boltres' suit against the Village in recent months and threatened to enforce the penalty if the suit exposed the agreement.
Meijer attorney John Pirich attended the closed settlement hearings on Monday. Pirich said Meijer was not part of the recent settlement, but declined further comment.
Circuit Judge Philip E. Rodgers said Pirich contacted him late last week and said agreements had been reached. Rodgers said Boltres received a financial settlement to end his suit against the Village, "but that would be a confidential number."
Of Meijer's role, Rodgers said: "Meijer was concerned the ongoing litigation was a violation of the settlement they had reached with Mr. Boltres" in 2007.
Rodgers said Monday's settlement clears his docket of legal action involving Meijer and the Village for the first time in five years. His relief was tempered by the knowledge that some details of what occurred in Acme might never fully be known.
The Village and Meijer also recently settled lawsuits with other Acme officials and paid a community group to preempt possible legal action. Those settlements totaled nearly $1.6 million and were placed on the public record.
Reactions in Acme were mixed Monday. Echoing Rodgers, some hoped the Boltres suit would shed more light on who ordered the secret election manipulations in the battle over the proposed Village at Grand Traverse development.
Others were glad to see the last suit put to rest for both the township and Boltres.
"I'm glad for Mr. Boltres all the lawsuits are over with and he can get on with his life," said Acme Township Supervisor Wayne Kladder. "Especially now that the township and developers are working together to develop a village here in Acme, it will help remove that from the back of anyone's mind."
Meijer and The Village sued Boltres and other Acme officials personally in 2005 amid a zoning battle over a large-scale development proposed along M-72 to be anchored by Meijer. Boltres filed a countersuit against Meijer in 2007.
In the suit against the Village, Boltres' attorney Grant Parsons alleged attorneys for Meijer and the Village knowingly took part in illegal campaign finance activities in 2005, and any such activity negated standard attorney-client privileges.
Parsons asked Rodgers to order the Village to turn over detailed bills and other communications with its attorneys, documents Parsons expected to "answer everybody's questions about everything that happened in Acme Township over the last five years."
Rodgers never ruled on Parsons' request. On Monday, Rodgers said Parsons and Boltres withdrew the allegation of crimes committed by lawyers for Meijer and the Village.
Some observers expressed disappointment that the settlement left questions unanswered.
"I hold nothing against Bill Boltres for settling, but obviously there is a lot of information the Village and Meijer don't want known," said Denny Rohn, president of Concerned Citizens of Acme Township. "That's what this is all about; it's about hiding the truth."
Acme Township Clerk Dorothy Dunville hoped to learn what happened in Acme, but acknowledged the suits took physical tolls on Boltres and his wife, Doris*.
Boltres has cancer and suffered several heart attacks and recently a stroke.
"His health is the main issue ... so I'm glad it's over and done," Dunville said. "Maybe they can get some rest now."
The name of Bill Boltres' wife was originally incorrect in this story.