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Backtracking on the treasurer

 

By Michael Howell

Ravalli County Treasurer Valerie Stamey and her current husband, Richard Stamey, both moved to Montana, sometime in 2007, from South Carolina, where they each left records of financial and legal difficulties in various circuit courts across the north end of the state. Records show that her maiden name was Valerie April Addis. She was married and divorced twice, first to a man named R. Bruce Beatty and then to William Count Scott. After the second divorce she went back to using her maiden name, Addis. Since arriving in Montana she has used both her maiden and her married names, Valerie Addis, Valerie Beatty and Valerie Scott, for various purposes. For instance, she was appointed to the Treasurer’s position as Valerie Stamey, but gets her paycheck under the name Valerie Scott and holds a driver’s license under the name of Addis.

Her court history shows that she was struggling financially, but also shows some legal problems. A civil suit was filed in Greenville County Court in South Carolina on September 20, 2010 against Valerie Addis (her maiden name) alleging financial misconduct. A court order proclaiming a default judgment against her for $17,399 was issued on September 15, 2013. In the suit she was charged with making fraudulent use of someone else’s financial account information for her own gain.

Richard Stamey’s record in York County Court also indicates financial problems as well as a legal problem. He was arrested for Grand Larceny. A warrant for his arrest was issued and served on him for stealing a boat in 1991. Those charges remained on the books until 2007, the same year he moved to Montana, when the case was dismissed because the victim could not be found.

Last week’s publication of the civil judgment against Valerie has ignited what other media is calling a “firestorm” on top of the already growing controversy over the dysfunctions in the Treasurer’s Office. Those problems include missing deposits, mis-applied funds, and delinquent remittances as well as a failure to balance and reconcile the accounts.

After arriving in Montana, Stamey applied for a job with the Missoula County Public School District’s food services program under her maiden name Valerie Addis. She was successful and started working there in 2007. She worked there until her resignation in February 2011.

The Bitterroot Star’s understanding of Stamey’s relationship with the Missoula County Public School District comes largely through her own statements in the lawsuit she subsequently filed against the district on February 1, 2013. The school district is not talking about it, but it is processing a list of written inquiries from the Bitterroot Star.

Stamey, who was employed under the name Valerie Addis, also filed her lawsuit against the district under that name. Without legal representation, Stamey signs the document herself as Valerie Addis.

Stamey (Addis) claims in the lawsuit that she “was terminated from her employment pursuant to a discharge letter that contained false statements concerning quality of the plaintiff’s work.” She claims to have “established that her independent business operation fully compensated the supplier who submitted repeat billing to the Defendant. Notwithstanding that the School District’s payments were made to fraudulent invoicing by the supplier, the School District terminated Plaintiff from her employment.”

Apparently at the same time Stamey was serving as food services director for the district she also owned a private concession business at Big Sky High School that was being operated by her husband Richard Stamey.

Although she claims in the suit that she was terminated “pursuant to a discharge letter,” she did in fact submit a letter to the board of trustees on February 18, 2011, stating “I hereby voluntarily resign my position with the Missoula County Public Schools, effective February 18, 2011 for personal and professional reasons.”

Attorney for the school district, Elizabeth Kaleva, told the Bitterroot Star on Monday that the district had no knowledge of the lawsuit until information about it recently came out in the news. She said that the district had not been served. According to Kaleva, Stamey (Addis) not only submitted her letter of voluntary resignation but also signed a settlement agreement in which she agreed not to sue over the issue of her release from employment.

“If we are ever served,” said Kaleva, “we will be happy to respond. As far as I can determine, there is no information contained in the suit that is accurate except her name and the fact that she worked for the school district.” On top of that, according to Kaleva, there is a one year statute of limitations for filing a “wrongful discharge” lawsuit and Stamey’s suit was filed two years after her resignation.

Kaleva also told the Bitterroot Star that as far as she can determine, no one from Ravalli County called the Missoula County Public School with any inquiries about her previous employment.

“If their Human Resources department had sent us an inquiry with the standard release form signed by the applicant, we would have sent them everything in our files,” said Kaleva. “But no one at MCPS was ever asked anything. We never got a call.”

Back in early February 2013, just a few days after this lawsuit was filed in Missoula District Court, Stamey filed another lawsuit in Ravalli County District Court against a man named Ron Oberlander, owner of Montana Food Products Incorporated.

This suit was also never served and Oberlander expressed surprise when he was called about it Monday morning.

In her suit, Stamey (Addis) accuses Oberlander of slander for making false statements about her through his co-defendants (not named) to the Missoula County Public Schools, accusing her of failing to pay invoices that she in fact received and paid through her independent business operation. She claims those false statements led to the termination of her employment with the district.

Oberlander denies the allegations and said he never communicated any accusations to the district but did submit to them copies of what he discovered when examining his own business records. He said the documentation shows that product was disappearing from his food products business with no record of any payment. He also discovered that his plant manager was selling that product to the food services program and was being paid personally for it. Oberlander was not receiving any of those funds. The plant manager no longer works for him.

“We’ve learned the hard way that you need to do due diligence when hiring someone,” said Oberlander. About the county’s problems with Stamey and the revelation about her problems in South Carolina, he said, “This food thing seems petty, but it’s an ethical thing. If you are not ethical in the small things, how can you be ethical in the big things?”

Prior to leaving her job at the district, Valerie and Richard were already living in the Bitterroot Valley near Victor and must have commuted to their jobs in Missoula. A look at Ravalli County Justice Court records reveals that in May of 2008, Valerie, with a driver’s license under the name Valerie April Addis, was cited for speeding. She failed to appear in court in June and a warrant was issued for Fail to Appear. The citation was paid on July 7.

She was cited for expired registration in February 2009. A Fail to Appear letter was sent on March 27 and the citation was paid on April 3.

She was cited for breaking a 70 mph speed limit in June of 2011 and a Fail to Appear Summons was mailed to her requesting contact with the court by August 19. A bench warrant was issued and her license suspended on August 26. She finally paid her bond on October 27, 2011 and her license was reinstated.

A civil suit was filed against her on April 3, 2013 for failure to make payments on an accounts receivable to a veterinary hospital. A summons was issued but returned to the court unexecuted and an Alias Summons was issued on January 13, 2013. A name check undertaken by the Justice Court Clerk on January 14, 2014 produced three aliases for Valerie Addis Stamey. They were Valerie April Addis, Valerie Addis Scott and Valerie Addis Beatty.

The couple also got involved in Ravalli County politics during this period. Valerie is currently a Republican Party Precinct Chairman and Richard is a recent appointment to the Ravalli County Planning Board.

In the 2010 elections Richard filed for the state HD 89 seat that was held by Gary MacLaren and competed against him in the primary. MacLaren filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Political Practices alleging three violations of the campaign laws. One for not referencing particular votes included in his advertising, one for not complying with the Clean Campaign Act by providing a copy of his election material to his opponent, and one for not filing financial disclosure paperwork with the Commissioner’s office.

The Commissioner made a decision upholding all three of MacLaren’s complaints on July 21, 2011.

Financial reports were required to be filed starting on May 27, 2010. Any contributions over $100 are required to be reported within 48 hours of receipt between May 29 and June 8. A post primary report was required on June 28. No report was ever received until July 14, 2010, which was clearly a violation of the law, according to the Commissioner’s decision.

What went unnoticed at the time was a fraudulent claim contained in the report.

Richard’s campaign finance report lists a $125 in-kind donation from the Bitterroot Star, stating that the newspaper had donated the advertising to his campaign.  Richard did place two ads with the Bitterroot Star during that period for a total of $277.75. He paid $115, leaving a total debt of $162.75. That bill has never been paid.

According to publisher Victoria Howell, the newspaper never authorized such a donation and has never donated political advertising to any candidates in 28 years of business. She said, “Richard Stamey’s treasurer appears to have made an unauthorized claim that a portion of that newspaper debt was a gift to their campaign. It’s not true.”

According to documents available for view on the Commissioner of Political Practices website, Valerie served as Richard’s official treasurer and signed the financial report. The Bitterroot Star has filed a complaint about the false claim with the Commissioner of Political Practices. He said the complaint was admissible for consideration because the four-year statute of limitations had not expired.

In 2012, Valerie ran for the position of Ravalli County Treasurer. If you look for her financial reports on the Commissioner of Political Practices website, you won’t find any. Asked why that was, Mary Baker, Program Director at the office, forwarded to the Bitterroot Star the e-mail string between her and Valerie concerning the issue.

Following a request for the required reports from the Commissioner’s office on November 12, 2013, Valerie e-mailed a response, stating that she had filed utilizing the online reporting system. She states that when she later looked and saw that it was not posted, she mailed a copy of her report to the office. Then she states that no report is really necessary.

“I received contributions of $160 and spent $420. This exempts me from filing the traditional report. If there is anything further that is needed please know that I would be delighted to respond with any information to resolve this matter.”

Baker e-mailed back, stating that a report showing a total contribution of $160 and total expenses of $420 does require a financial report. She notes that the law states that “if you exceed $500 in Contribution and/or Expenses” you must file a report.

Stamey responded, “I will get that done tonight and check with you in the morning to make sure you have what you need. I appreciate your assistance with this.”

But the next day Stamey sends an e-mail, saying, “I am having trouble printing the C5 from the website. Would you do me a favor and attach one and I will get this done this afternoon.”

“Do you want it in excel or a pdf?” asks Baker.

“Excel,” replies Stamey.

And that’s the last they ever heard from her.

“So far we just don’t have anything to post on the site,” said Baker.

11 Responses to Backtracking on the treasurer
  1. Amber E
    January 28, 2014 | 4:00 pm

    Between MCPS and the political stint, she also worked as the Housekeeping Manager for the Best Western Plus Grant Creek Inn in Missoula, and then after that briefly at Mountain Water Co.

  2. Penny Gaddy Rhodes
    January 27, 2014 | 3:37 pm

    If Michael and the Star does not win an award for his coverage of this issue then there is simply no justice. Michael you are doing an excellent job!!

  3. Judith loring
    January 26, 2014 | 8:28 pm

    I agree with all comments re: Good Job Michael! I\’d support you for a Pulitzer prize as well. You are one of a dying breed, a true investigative reporter, while the Missoulian/Lee et al chain just repeats what you\’ve uncovered. You are the best, both you and Victoria!

  4. E ve Meng
    January 24, 2014 | 9:47 pm

    Thank you for your fine investigation into this, Michael! You are a true gem of a journalist!!

  5. Boggled
    January 24, 2014 | 3:11 am

    Once again, thank you for your investigations and your commitment to the valley. Who knows how long this could have gone on, if it weren’t for your dedication.
    Thank you.

  6. Mark Behrman
    January 24, 2014 | 12:19 am

    Michael, Thank you for your comments today 1/23/14 at the RCC meeting. I believe this will mobilize many normal Bitterrooters of both political parties to get off their easy chairs and make sure the last 3 years of this creative conservatism nonsense and obstruction of true bipartisanship ends. We are a county of people of every walk of life not political agendas .Ravalli county citizens it is time to act like responsible citizens.Michael, It would be helpful to post your presentation online for those who missed it. Thanks again.

  7. Orion
    January 23, 2014 | 4:17 pm

    In the old days, these people would have been tarred and feathered, and run out of town. Great work Michael.

  8. Bill laCroix
    January 23, 2014 | 2:49 am

    Excellent reporting, Michael. Just the facts, which speak screamingly for themselves. A very important thing that people are forgetting and need reminding of–which you partly did–is that she and her husband got involved in politics–actually in 2009 when Celebrating Conservatism cranked up after the 2008 election–when a lot of this stuff was going on and now her husband is on our planning board. He is of the same quality as Jan W., and a cohort of Cox and Floyd for that matter, as well as a crony of all five of our commissioners. Sorry all you “fair and balanced” folks. I really am. But the very first thing Iman approved as chair in 2011–THE VERY FIRST THING–was to buy a militia-approved “unfringed” flag for the commissioners’ room. Spent several hundred bucks on it. It’d be a good question to ask Mr. and Ms. Stamey about as they process their pasts in public–what’s an “unfringed” flag mean to them? Common scheme Posse Comitatus paper terrorism used to say it meant any business conducted under the “illegal” “fringed” flag is null and void, and those who did business under it might have to be tried for treason in front of a “people’s court” boot. Look at all five commissioners’ county supremacy schemes. They’re of a piece with it. This whole commission–all five, six if you include Kanenwisher–have been pandering to the far-right edge of the universe for years. All six have done a terrible disservice to all of us who faithfully pay our taxes with the expectation that we will get certain things in return and then find out they put wing nut cronies in charge of our treasure. OUR TREASURE! Greg and J.R.: can you tell me who’s drawer my tax payment’s in please? Not yet? Please folks. Pay attention, and thank you again Michael for your much needed research and exposure.

  9. Barbara Ellis
    January 22, 2014 | 11:54 pm

    Ravalli County citizens were in the dark while this deplorable situation was unraveling in our county government. Many thanks to the Bitterroot Star’s excellent investigative reporting for bringing it to our attention and continuing to peel back the layers of this debacle. You, the taxpayers, are paying dearly for malfeasance in the Ravalli County Treasurer’s office (made obvious in this and previous articles,) the Human Resource Department (for lack of professionalism and due diligence) and some of the county commissioners (for not acknowledging their hiring error and immediately firing the person responsible for failing to meet the minimum requirements of her job.) In the meantime, we still have no idea of the depth of the problems and had to learn about it from the Star instead of our county commissioners who were elected to represent our best interests. Considering the serious nature of the situation and the lack of timeliness with which it has been handled, I believe an outside audit of the treasurer’s office is necessary as soon as possible. This is a mess and I want answers.

  10. clark lee
    January 22, 2014 | 8:35 pm

    So, this morning, I was trying to appease my Mrs. about the local news of Ms. Stamey, by saying, “Well, you know, it just might turn out that she is just crazy.” (Needlees to say it didn’t work.)
    Turns out…
    Criminal … , but still…

    Guess this get’s her employers off the hook. They can claim ‘not guilty’ due to “we didn’t know the b____ was crazy!”

  11. HelenWheels
    January 22, 2014 | 8:27 pm

    Does anyone know how to submit a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize? I’d like to nominate Michael Howell.

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