Traverse City Record-Eagle

Meijer-Acme Township Dispute

January 5, 2010

Meijer appeals ruling allowing prosecution

TRAVERSE CITY -- Meijer Inc. will ask the Michigan Supreme Court to halt a criminal investigation into its admitted campaign finance violations in Acme Township.

The Kent County-based retailer waited until late Monday afternoon -- the last day of a deadline -- to appeal a state appellate court decision that gave the go-ahead for a local prosecutor to investigate Meijer for possible criminal violations.

Meijer's former attorneys, Dickinson Wright PLLC, also filed a separate appeal on Monday afternoon. The two firms hope the high court will overturn a Nov. 19 appeals court decision that said county prosecutors can enforce violations of the state Campaign Finance Act.

"I guess I would have been more surprised if they hadn't filed," said Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Alan Schneider.

Schneider has not yet received the filings, which are not yet available to the public.

Meijer's lead attorney, John Pirich, did not return messages left at both his office and on his cell phone.

Sharon Woods, who represents Dickinson Wright, said she was not in a position to comment.

Meijer admitted it spent more than $100,000 to secretly influence township elections in 2005 and 2007, and argues only the secretary of state can enforce provisions of the campaign act.

Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land levied a $190,000 fine against the company in 2008, but Schneider wants to pursue possible felony charges against the individuals who authorized the illegal payments.

The appeals prevent Schneider from kick-starting an investigation that was halted by 13th Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers in April 2008.

Officials from both Meijer and Dickinson Wright refused to provide witnesses or correspondence between Meijer officials and their attorneys regarding discussions about the Acme elections.

Acme Township officials initiated the criminal probe in 2008 when they filed a complaint with Schneider because they voiced concerns about Land, a Kent County native who received significant financial support from Meijer's political action committee.

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