TRAVERSE CITY -- Meijer, Inc. settled a lawsuit filed by Acme Township's treasurer as public exposure of its plot to overthrow Acme's elected officials loomed.
The Grand Rapids-based retailer announced the settlement with Acme Treasurer William Boltres Saturday in a terse, unsigned statement. The deal came about in rapid fashion on Friday, just before a planned Record-Eagle series that detailed Meijer's role in last February's failed Acme recall election.
Terms were not disclosed. In November, a mediation panel recommended Meijer pay Boltres $3 million.
"The parties agreed to keep details of the agreement confidential," the Meijer statement read. "Neither Mr. Boltres nor Meijer will provide public comment regarding the lawsuit or settlement."
Meijer sued Boltres and three other township board members individually in May 2006 and alleged they had a conflict of interest in deciding a land-use permit for a proposed Meijer store.
The next month, Scott Nowakowski, Meijer's director of real estate, in an e-mail message to then-Acme Supervisor Bill Kurtz, accused township officials of costing the company "millions $ in damages" and said Meijer would hold the township's officials accountable.
Meijer's suit also sought township officials' private records, and attempted to seize their personal computers.
"You could see the change in Bill (Boltres), it made him so sick," said township Clerk Dorothy Dunville.
Last April, Boltres returned the favor and sued Meijer. He contended the company's lawsuit amounted to harassment, malicious prosecution and damaged his health.
Boltres' attorney, Grant Parsons, this month obtained through a subpoena billing records that showed Grand Rapids-based public relations firm Seyferth, Spaulding, Tennyson sent Meijer invoices for more than $30,000 to work on the recall of the Acme Township Board.
The work and expenditures weren't publicly disclosed as required by state campaign finance laws. The Record-Eagle obtained the public relations firm's billing documents.
Meijer then filed a motion seeking to move the upcoming trial from the Record-Eagle's northern Michigan coverage area.
Two days after Meijer learned the Record-Eagle had the billing documents, company attorneys sought an emergency order to gag Parsons and halt the release of additional documents.
Grand Traverse County Circuit Court Judge Philip E. Rodgers on Dec. 17 denied both motions. Rodgers also gave Meijer until Dec. 28 to turn over financial records that would prove who paid the public relations firm.
The Record-Eagle last week notified Meijer's attorneys that it planned a series of articles based on the retailer's recall role, prompting Meijer to ask Rodgers for another emergency gag order.
Meijer settled the suit before that motion could be heard.
Early this month, Parsons expressed confidence that a jury would award Boltres more than $3 million, though if Meijer offered $1.5 million, he'd consult with Boltres.
But that was before Parsons learned of Meijer's financial ties to the recall, which he later described as proof of Meijer's "illegal motive" for suing Boltres.
Acme Township attorney Chris Bzdok reviewed lawsuit documents and witness depositions in the Boltres suit.
"(Parsons) had Meijer over a barrel," Bzdok said. "I don't know what the settlement was, but if (Parsons) settled it was for a lot of money."
Today Acme Township Treasurer William Boltres and Meijer Inc. reached settlement of a lawsuit pending in Traverse City, ending a dispute.
The parties agreed to keep details of the agreement confidential. Neither Mr. Boltres nor Meijer will provide public comment regarding the lawsuit or the settlement. Both parties are pleased to put the lawsuit behind them and move forward.
Separately, Meijer wishes to note that prior to this month, senior company officials believed that no financial contributions had been made to a local taxpayers group. New information indicates otherwise. We apologize for this error. Meijer is completing its review of the facts and will meet any reporting requirements that emerge.
Meijer values its relationship with the communities we serve. We intend at all times to provide accurate and relevant information on issues related to our activities to the public.