By Michael Howell
In last week’s newspaper the Bitterroot Star reported on an October 10 meeting between the County Commissioners and newly appointed County Treasurer Valerie Stamey. Stamey updated the Commissioners on her transition. She told the Bitterroot Star after the meeting that she was in a “learning and studying mode” and that, after three weeks on the job, “things are going well.”
But things are not actually going that well at the Treasurer’s Office. It turns out that the Commissioners had called her into their chambers two days earlier, on October 8, something not included on the day’s agenda, and they got a different sort of an update.
According to unofficial minutes of the meeting, she told the commissioners that she was on a high learning curve and working with individual staff members on a one on one basis to learn aspects of the job. She said she was dealing with informational and procedural issues and hopes to work on documentation of policies and procedures and was looking at the big picture to see where her tasks were.
But she also said obtaining information from employees was a challenge. She said she wanted backing from the commissioners in her requests to receive information from the employees, as she is in the midst of a passive aggressive workplace bordering on insubordination. She said when she is asking for information she would like her staff to be more forthcoming. She said she expects some human resource challenges but if staff poses a barrier, then they should be dealt with appropriately.
What she didn’t mention at that meeting, but submitted to the commissioners in written form, was a spreadsheet showing her accomplishments to date and an assessment of her concerns. One of them was, “Hostile work environment. Demonstrated by passive aggressive behavior, selective memory of procedures and practices. Failure to answer questions completely.”
Commission Chairman Jeff Burrows expressed surprise when he was shown a copy of the spreadsheet and the Treasurer’s remark about a “hostile work environment.” He said it was usually a pretty serious charge but that he felt like she was “dramatizing the issues” a bit.
“She didn’t say that at the meeting,” said Burrows. He said he hadn’t seen the spreadsheet before. The copy in the Bitterroot Star’s possession was obtained, immediately following the meeting, from the Commission Administrator upon request by a member of the public in attendance. (The Bitterroot Star did not have a reporter at the meeting. It was not on the agenda.)
Burrows explained that the Commissioners had called in the Treasurer that day because they were aware of problems in the Treasurer’s office and that Commissioner J.R. Iman had been working with Stamey on a daily basis as a Commission liaison to address the problems.
“There were lingering conflicts and J.R. (Iman) was trying to smooth them over,” said Burrows.
In the unofficial minutes of the meeting, Commissioner Suzy Foss asked Stamey if the daily visits from the Commission needed to continue and Stamey said it was not necessary and that she would rather have communication with the full board.
Foss asked if a letter or a visit from the commissioners to the employees about sharing information would be helpful. Stamey said a letter would be helpful. She also stated that some of the work was not being done since Marie Keeton (the previous Treasurer) left, thus her concern is the time sensitive pieces of work that are not being done, and she does not know what those pieces are.
Burrows said that no letter was written.
The unofficial minutes also note that Commissioner Ron Stoltz stated he has received complaints from four people (he didn’t name them) that one commissioner has been running the Treasurer’s Office and therefore he does not want any personal contact with the Treasurer’s Office by a commissioner. The board concurred. Iman will no longer serve as liaison and Stamey will contact the chairman if she wants a meeting with the full board.
As a result of all this, apparently, Human Resources Director Robert Jenni and Stamey met with employee Linda Isaacs on Thursday, October 17 to get some answers from one employee who was very likely to have them. Isaacs was the other applicant for the Treasurer’s job, who was passed up by the Commissioners in favor of Stamey.
What they got from Isaacs was an on-the-spot resignation, effective immediately.
Isaacs told the Bitterroot Star that she had had enough. She said that Stamey was being paid a hefty salary for being Treasurer and was trying to force a wage-scale office employee to do the job for her.
Isaacs said that Jenni was trying to get her to train Stamey in her job. She said that she had been a Deputy Treasurer in Lake County for five years and has worked almost five years now training treasurers from around the state in the use of government software.
“But it’s not my job to train the Treasurer and I’m not getting paid to do it,” said Isaacs.
Isaacs said that Stamey was not interested in being trained, that she (Stamey) was looking for other people to do her work.
“She doesn’t seem to understand that in a small county like this it’s a hands-on job. You can’t just sit back and watch,” said Isaacs.
Isaacs also said, “I’m tired of the lies. Maybe they are insignificant, but there is no reason to lie.” She said Stamey was taking credit for doing things in the office that other people accomplished and blaming other people, including Isaacs, for her own shortcomings. She said Stamey told the Commissioners that she was waiting on submission from office staff of material for the tax billing.
“That’s not true,” said Isaacs. “I’ve done my work.” She said it’s apparently Stamey who doesn’t know what to do with the information.
“She goes by at least three different names,” said Isaacs of the new Treasurer. “Her paycheck is made out to Valerie Scott. She signs all business at the Treasurer’s Office as Valerie Stamey. And she owns property under the name of Valerie Addis… She’s a shady character and I don’t want any part of it anymore,” said Isaacs.
Stamey’s car, which she drives to work most every day, is registered under the name Valerie Addis and sports license plates last renewed in 2010.
On Thursday, October 17, by coincidence about an hour or two following Isaacs’ resignation, a Bitterroot Star reporter arrived to interview Stamey about the minutes of the October 8 meeting at which she had made allegations about the hostile work environment. She was asked about the issue of the conflicts and lack of cooperation from her staff that she had related to the Commissioners that day.
Stamey said, “It’s nothing more than a series of things we are working on. Every person is different in how they approach a work situation. I guess it’s a matter for some to learn my style. We have had conversations, but we are flowing along. We are going through some normal adjustments for team building. I just wanted the Commissioners to know that.”
She said that she intended on working closely with the Commissioners.
“I appreciate the Commissioners’ support as we move towards a smooth transition,” said Stamey.
Asked if her license plates were up to date, she said, “I think so… I’ll have to check into that.” County records and the sticker on her license plate show that it has not been renewed since 2010.
On the day of Isaacs’ resignation, Treasurer’s Office employee Bonnie Dugan read a letter out loud to Stamey and the office staff before delivering it to the County Commissioners.
In the letter she states that Linda Isaacs had started in the office just like Stamey and “proven herself a smart, conscientious, reliable worker, who did her job to the best of her ability, she was well liked and will be missed, she proved this to us all,” wrote Dugan.
“You have to prove yourself and the best way to help this office is to learn your job as Treasurer, we were not hired or get paid to do your job,” wrote Dugan. “We want what is best for the office and remaining employees which is obviously different from some of the commissioners. The best way for you to prove yourself is to learn the job as Treasurer and performing it correctly, timely. You learning and then doing your job will free each of us on down to complete our jobs…,” wrote Dugan.