Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

July 25, 2013

Meijer tried to quash ex-attorney's testimony

TRAVERSE CITY — Meijer Inc. officials unsuccessfully tried to prevent their former attorney Timothy Stoepker from revealing any secrets that might remain about the retailer’s illegal intervention in two Acme Township elections.

Stoepker, of Grand Rapids, faces ethics charges from his time as Meijer’s lawyer that could cost him his law license. His attorneys indicated he may have to reveal client confidences in order to defend himself. That prompted current Meijer attorneys to ask the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board to allow the retailer to intervene and head off the potential release of confidential information.

Lawyers generally can’t reveal private client information, but state legal ethics rules allow an accused attorney to defend against allegations of criminal or ethical violations, said Robert Edick, deputy grievance administrator with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission.

“Mr. Stoepker was free at any point during the investigation to reveal that information at his discretion,” Edick said. “He does not need Meijer’s approval to reveal that, but apparently Meijer took a different view of that.”

“Their motion was unusual,” he said. “That’s pretty rare.”

Three Kent County attorneys who serve as the hearing panel for the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board rejected Meijer’s request, and the full discipline board this month rejected Meijer’s attempt to intervene in the Stoepker case.

Meijer attorney John Pirich said the retailer’s legal motion speaks for itself, and he declined to discuss Meijer’s next step.

The discipline board also rejected Stoepker’s request to dismiss charges against him for falsely testifying under oath about his alleged role in Meijer’s illegal campaign activities in Acme in 2005 and 2007. Stoepker has 21 days from July 19 to file his formal answer to the charges, at which point a hearing date will be set.

Stoepker could not be reached for comment.

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