Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

March 31, 2013

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

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Someone finally may have to personally pay the piper for Meijer, Inc.’s abuse of Acme Township residents and government officials during the second half of the past decade.
Michigan’s Attorney Grievance Commission — the state Supreme Court wing charged with investigating and prosecuting alleged misconduct among state lawyers — this month leveled a formal complaint against a former Meijer hired gun who many believe masterminded the Grand Rapids-area retailer’s illegal corporate thuggery in Grand Traverse County.
Grievance commission officials allege Timothy Stoepker, a Grand Rapids-based lawyer with heavyweight firm Dickinson Wright, gave false statements during a 2007 deposition in Bill Boltres’ lawsuit against Meijer. 
Boltres, Acme Township’s then-treasurer, stood strong against Meijer’s bullying and threats of legal action and effectively became Acme’s version of David in a battle against Goliath.
Boltres’ fight toppled the illegal house of cards and prompted (forced?) the state to slap Meijer with a six-figure fine for violations of state campaign finance law. The lawsuit opened the door for Boltres and other Acme government officials and citizens to earn millions in lawsuit settlements from the retailer.
Stoepker was Meijer’s legal point man during its effort to site a sprawling development complex in Acme. Two highly contentious elections occurred in the township during Stoepker’s time at the controls: a 2005 referendum on “big box” stores and a recall against the township board in 2007. Evidence from lawsuits and other investigations ultimately proved Meijer illegally funded those campaigns when it paid a company that created bogus citizens groups to push the retailer’s anti-zoning agenda. Stoepker was neck deep in those efforts, according to grievance commission documents. In 2006 as Meijer’s representative, he signed a contact with Seyferth Spaulding Tennyson Inc., a Grand Rapids public relations firm, and Meijer secretly paid that firm to gin-up a recall of Acme’s elected officials.

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