Traverse City Record-Eagle


March 31, 2013

Editorial: Case against ex-Meijer lawyer puts face on Acme violations


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The grievance commission said Stoepker worked as lead attorney for Meijer when the company violated campaign finance laws over the stretch of both elections. 
In October 2007, Boltres’ lawyer, Grant Parsons, of Traverse City, questioned Stoepker during a deposition in Boltres’ lawsuit. Grievance commission documents show Parsons asked the following questions:
“Can you tell me how big a role Meijer took in the election, referendum or moratorium election up there?” 
Stoepker replied, “I have no knowledge of that at all.” 
Parsons continued, “Do you know what contributions Meijer Corporation made to local political supporters of Meijer in the Acme area?” 
“I have no knowledge,” Stoepker said.
In its complaint, the grievance commission said “(Stoepker’s) answers to these questions posed to him at his deposition were intentionally and knowingly false and misleading given Stoepker’s representation of Meijer and its agents regarding the referendum and recall elections.”
The grievance commission cited seven instances in which Stoepker allegedly committed professional misconduct, including two that fairly sum up allegations against Stoepker and how he and the retailer conducted business in that community in the mid- to late-2000s: “(Stoepker) (e)ngaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation where such conduct reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer ... (and) (e)ngaged in conduct that violates the criminal law, being the then-applicable Michigan Campaign Finance Act.”
Stoepker is scheduled to appear for a hearing next month, an opportunity for him to dispute the grievance commission’s findings. If the grievance commission’s findings stick, he’s subject to punishment that could range from a reprimand to suspension or loss of his law license.
Meijer’s decisions over the years to settle its various lawsuits and pay state fines and penalties helped its corporate officers avoid public exposure for their roles in the disgraceful Acme episode. But the grievance commission’s probe — prompted by a complaint filed by Detroit-area lawyer Matthew Abel — finally puts a face on the abuses and holds someone personally accountable for reprehensible behavior perpetrated by people against people who lived in this community.
It’s high time.

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