Traverse City Record-Eagle

Meijer-Acme Township Dispute

March 16, 2009

Meijer, officials settle lawsuit

Details of tentative settlement sealed in court file

TRAVERSE CITY -- Denny Rohn believes her neighbors in Acme Township should know all that representatives of Meijer Inc. and other developers did against township officials and others who opposed their plans along M-72.

But Rohn, president of Concerned Citizens of Acme Township, and the public may never know.

Acme Township officials who sued the Grand Rapids-based retail chain, developer the Village at Grand Traverse LLC and their former attorneys, Dickinson Wright PLLC and Timothy Stoepker, agreed to a tentative settlement that's sealed in the court file of the protracted legal dispute.

"Obviously Meijer does not want the story told," Rohn said. "I'm disappointed that Meijer is so adamant that they do not want people to know what they did."

Thirteenth Circuit Court Judge Philip E. Rodgers issued an order dated Thursday suspending the lawsuit because of the pending settlement. The suit was filed in 2008 by township trustees Erick Takayama, Frank Zarafonitis, Ron Harden and township planning commissioners Robert Carstens and Clare David. They accused Meijer, the Village, and their former attorneys of malicious prosecution and abuse of court process.

"The attorneys told me last week they had been through facilitated mediation and had come to a global resolution involving all of the parties," Rodgers said Monday. "I haven't seen the agreement ... but there is a sealed copy on file with the court."

The suit alleged that Meijer, the Village, and their attorneys intentionally harmed township officials through a frivolous lawsuit, illegal campaign activity and secret financial support of a citizens group that harassed township officials. Meijer and the Village were seeking to build a large, disputed development along M-72.

The plaintiff's attorney, Michael Dettmer, said he intended to take statements under oath from Meijer president Mark Murray and company board co-chairman Hank Meijer. Both issued public statements indicating they were unaware of Meijer's illegal efforts to influence Acme elections in 2005 and 2007.

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