By Michael Howell
Not only is Ravalli County Treasurer Valerie Stamey, aka Valerie Addis, aka Valerie Scott, not responding to the many departments, districts, and organizations lodging various complaints about unrecorded tax receipts and other missing or misapplied funds, it appears she has a history of not answering complaints. For instance, she failed to respond to a significant complaint lodged against her in a South Carolina court just prior to moving to Montana and as a result had a Default Judgment entered against her in the amount of $17,399 for “failure to answer or plead in said action as required by law.” The complaint involved allegations of malpractice.
According to records obtained from the Greenville County 13th Judicial Circuit in South Carolina, a summons (bearing the name Valerie Addis) was delivered to Stamey on November 10, 2010 in the parking lot of a Missoula School District Office, where she worked in the Food Service Department under the name Valerie Addis. She never answered that complaint, resulting in the default judgment that was issued on September 15, 2011.
The complaint alleges that Addis refinanced her home and received an initial check for $18,149 from Scotty Sheriff of Sheriff Law Firm, LLC made payable to Discover Financial Services. Addis was to use the money to make a payment on her Discover credit card. Instead, “without express or implied consent” she made an unauthorized “phone pay” to Discover for that amount using Sheriff’s account information that was listed on the check. Discover accepted the unauthorized payment. Addis did not have authority to initiate any withdrawals from Sheriff’s account and did not notify him of the unauthorized payment to Discover.
Next, she proceeded to mail the paper check, which she had used to make the unauthorized payment to Discover, making dual payments to the credit card company that were credited to her account.
According to the complaint, Sheriff’s bank covered both payments. When that was brought to the attention of Discover Financial Services, they declined to take responsibility and declined reimbursement to Sheriff. Instead they reimbursed Addis $14,721.60 for the unauthorized phone payment from Sheriff’s account. Addis cashed the check and failed to reimburse Sheriff. Sheriff continued to seek relief and eventually got one payment of $750 from Addis. No other payments were ever received. She subsequently moved to Montana.
Although she worked at the Missoula County Public School District under the name Addis, she applied for the Ravalli County Treasurer’s position in 2010 under the name Valerie Stamey, but was not selected. She was appointed to the position under the name Valerie Stamey in September 2013, following Marie Keeton’s resignation, but currently receives her paychecks from the county under the name Valerie Scott.
Along with extensive failures in carrying out her duties as Treasurer, including failure to post received tax payments in a timely manner, posting payments to the wrong accounts and failure to send tax remittances to various departments, districts, state agencies and municipalities in a timely manner, Stamey has also made a few blunders that led the County Clerk and Recorder to notify the commissioners in order to “document the incidents.”
One involved a verification of the vault, which Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg stated she does periodically. But it was the first time ever, according to Plettenberg, that she had to verify the Treasurer’s desk where, after unlocking the desk, she found four checks totaling $21,413.41 and $100 in cash. The second unusual incident which the Clerk felt compelled to document occurred when two office employees who knew the combination to the safe did not show up for work. Stamey apparently had gone to her own bank and withdrawn personal funds to use in order to open up the office. The Clerk states in her account of the incident that one of the employees showed up before Stamey’s funds were used and she was called in to count the money that Stamey had brought in and watch her walk out with it.
A number of requests made in late November and early December concerning missing deposits and unremitted funds from the Justice Court Clerks, the District Court Clerk, the County’s Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller, Ravalli County Economic Development Authority, Ravalli County Weed Department, First Interstate Bank, Stevensville Fire District, the City of Hamilton, Hamilton School District, and the Town of Stevensville went unanswered by the Treasurer (see Bitterroot Star issue 12/11/13).
Since then more requests have gone unanswered during the first weeks of January from the state Motor Vehicle Division, Bitterroot Valley Education Cooperative, Ravalli County Public Health, Ravalli County Grants Coordinator, Bitterroot Irrigation District and the Commissioners’ Administrative Assistant, all regarding missing or unrecorded deposits and/or remittances that were due but not received.
Commissioner Suzy Foss stated at a recent meeting that a six month transition period for a new treasurer was not unusual or out of bounds. County Chief Finance Officer Klarysse Murphy told the Bitterroot Star that she has never seen this scale of dysfunctionality in the treasurer’s office. Plettenberg told the Bitterroot Star that she has not seen this level of dysfunction in the treasurer’s office in her 15 years at the Clerk and Recorder’s office. Asked Monday about the discrepancy between her estimation about the current transition problems and that of the CFO and Clerk and Recorder, Foss said that many other counties have this type of problem. She mentioned one that had similar transition problems going on now for eight months but couldn’t remember which county that was.
Commissioner J.R. Iman stated on Monday at a public meeting, “We (the county commissioners) are not tasked by definition to solve issues in another elected official’s domain.”
State statutes, however, do give county commissioners some authority over the Treasurer. For instance, the Treasurer is required by law to “make a detailed monthly report to the governing body of the county of all receipts, disbursements, debt, and other proceedings in the treasurer’s office” (7-6-612(2)(a) MCA) as well as an annual report (7-6-611(2)(a) MCA).
Another statute (7-6-2113 MCA) states: “Effect of failure to make treasurer’s report. If a county treasurer neglects or refuses to settle or report as required in 7-6-612, the county treasurer forfeits and shall pay to the county the sum of $500 for each neglect or refusal. The board of county commissioners shall institute suits for the recovery of the sum.”
Another statute (7-6-2110 MCA) states that the board of county commissioners has jurisdiction and power, under the limitations and restrictions that are prescribed by law, to supervise the official conduct of all county officers and officers of all districts and other subdivisions of the county charged with assessing, collecting, safekeeping, managing, or disbursing public revenue; to see that the officers faithfully perform their duties; to direct prosecutions for delinquencies; and, when necessary, require the officers to renew their official bonds, make reports, and present their books and accounts for inspection.
Another law (7-6-2103 MCA) provides that “whenever an action based upon official misconduct is commenced against a county treasurer, the board of county commissioners may in its discretion suspend the treasurer from office until the suit is determined and may appoint some person to fill the vacancy.”
Asked why she receives her paycheck as Ravalli County Treasurer under the name Valerie Scott, Stamey replied that Valerie Addis was her maiden name but when she got married (to Richard Stamey) she tried to have her Social Security card changed to reflect that change but, “they got it wrong.” She said that she had been working for over a year to try and get that changed. When asked if she had resolved the issues over the judgment against her in South Carolina, she said, “That doesn’t have anything to do with my situation here with my office. I am working towards a resolution.”
The Commissioners were put on notice by the City of Hamilton and the Hamilton School District in mid-December that the State Department of Administration could provide assistance in correcting the problems at the treasurer’s office if the County requested it. On Monday, at an emergency meeting, the commissioners voted to request aid from the state.