The citizens of Ravalli County deserve a Treasurer’s Office that is efficient and capable of collecting and disbursing monies accurately and in a timely manner; a Treasury that can be trusted with their hard-earned dollar and a Commission who is in support of making that possible.
In light of recent findings regarding the Treasurer’s office, questions that have gone unanswered, as well as internal requests for assistance and fact-finding, I am requesting a complete forensic audit of all Treasurer’s Office activities, e-mail correspondences between all personnel, institutions, towns and courts, as well as elected officials, and any other parties involved, regarding the problems within the Treasurer’s department for, at minimum, five years and further back if historical support for current findings is required.
This office has been running amuck for quite a long time, well before Valerie Stamey came along. This is evidenced by years of misplaced files, lack of systems in place for accurate checks-and-balances, no system of assured accountability (or protection) for individual persons entering data and receipting large quantities of money, as well as a large degree of employee apathy that cannot be corrected without a stable workplace environment. Successful departments must have well-established rules of professional activity and conduct. Without security regarding workplace ethics and support from their supervisors and governing officials, employees cannot be expected to function to their full potential.
The standard operating procedures in any government office should not flux as people come and go (employees or elected officials). Set procedures should be in place to ensure that government agencies continue to function properly regardless of personnel changes.
Employees, as well as elected officials, need structure and set guidelines in order to perform optimally. They need a feeling of security that they are doing their job correctly and ethically. That comes from strong, positive enforcement and reinforcement of policy and procedure as well as ongoing process improvement and employee education.
In the event that a few employees leave any department, a truly well-functioning and properly trained department should not find itself in total disarray and subsequently paralyzed by the fact that these individuals are not there to impart their “personal” knowledge of process and procedure that is not accessible in written and approved standard operating procedures.
If any function of government must come to a standstill based on the absence of one or two employees who hold undocumented knowledge that is neither traceable nor accessible, then there is a strong possibility of deviation from set policy and procedure. It is also possible that individuals simply circumvented generally accepted standards of process improvement and basically began to make their own rules that have become accepted over time and without question, until now. If this has occurred within the treasurer’s office, it must be corrected.
Whether or not there has been purposeful mishandling of citizens’ money, or if the department has just been poorly run for a period of time, remains to be seen and is irrelevant today. Today, what is relevant is getting the wheels back on the bus as quickly and efficiently as possible.
A forensic audit from an outside firm, with proper oversight, appears to be the only feasible path to resolution. As a show of good faith to the citizens of Ravalli County, I would like to ask that the Commission to turn the entire matter over to the appropriate governing agencies to hire or appoint auditors that are without bias.
Our County Commissioners need time, outside of this matter, to address other county business that must surely be falling to the wayside during this time.
The laissez faire and obstructionist pattern of operation that has been evidenced by some officials and employees in Ravalli County must simply stop. I am obviously not in a position where I can personally change these far-reaching problems. However, I can request that steps be taken towards requesting assistance from agencies and professionals who can ascertain appropriate information and assert authority in a climate of much needed change.
I request that investigation and improvement be initiated with swift and concentrated effort before the county experiences a complete fiscal collapse.
I would hope that the constituency would rise up and demand action without hesitation, as it is their money that is in jeopardy and will continue to be managed by a failed system. In reviewing the Commissioners Correspondence on-line, it seems that I am not the first Ravalli County citizen to request an audit of the Treasurer’s Office.
I hope that most people, both employees and citizens, can view an audit as a way of “pressing the re-set button” and having a return of service. This is a request for improvement of services, professionalism, accountability and reasonable management expectations in a government entity.
As a recently hired employee for the Ravalli County Treasurer’s Office, I look forward to progressive change and improvement in many areas of function. Identifying problems and implementing stronger and more efficient policies and procedures will decrease individual pressure and workloads for employees. Along with a strong show of support from our Commissioners and a committed and cooperative staff, the Treasurer’s Office will certainly gain a foothold and provide services that are acceptable to the citizens of Ravalli County.
Audits are difficult and stressful for everyone involved, but the end result can only be that problems are pinpointed and corrected.
The Treasurer’s office has been a source of conflict and confusion long enough and the citizens and employees of Ravalli County deserve explanations, action, and resolution, not an ongoing string of impotent discussions and marginal inquiry.
Michelle H. Pope