Traverse City Record-Eagle

Meijer-Acme Township Dispute

November 22, 2009

Appeals court: Meijer can be prosecuted

TRAVERSE CITY -- Alan Schneider won this round, but Grand Traverse County's prosecutor must wait to restart a criminal investigation of campaign finance violations committed by Meijer, Inc.

A Michigan Court of Appeals panel overturned a local court ruling in an opinion released late Friday and said Schneider has jurisdiction to investigate alleged felonies in two Acme Township elections.

Schneider's probe is delayed, though, because Meijer has 42 days to decide whether to file an appeal.

"Regardless of whether or not there is a stay, at least at this point we know we can go forward with an investigation," Schneider said. "I'm going to look at individuals involved in orchestrating the opposition to the recall, but it's too early to name names."

Meijer attorney John Pirich called the appeals court's unanimous opinion "erroneous," and said Meijer will consider appealing to the Michigan Supreme Court or asking the appeals court to reconsider.

"We'll conduct our own analysis, then decide what remedies we should pursue," Pirich said Saturday.

Meijer's acts exposed

Schneider asked state police in January 2008 to investigate possible felonies after details emerged of Meijer's secret role in financing a 2007 recall campaign that targeted the Acme Township Board of Trustees.

Meijer's actions came to light during then-township Treasurer Bill Boltres' lawsuit against the retailer.

That probe stalled in April 2008, when 13th Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers quashed Schneider's subpoenas for documents and testimony from Meijer officials and their former attorneys at Dickinson Wright PLLC.

Rodgers said Michigan's secretary of state had sole authority to investigate and resolve campaign finance violations.

Rodgers expressed frustration with a law that he said forced his hand and later said he hoped the appeals court overturned his decision.

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