By Michael Howell
Before the County Commissioners could hold their meeting to discuss instituting an investigation into treasurer Valerie Stamey’s allegations made public at an update meeting last Tuesday, January 21, County Attorney Bill Fulbright had already instituted his own investigation. He told the commissioners on Thursday that their decision to undertake what may appear to be the same investigation was “administratively awkward.” He told them that it was not necessary for the board to take a position on it.
“I’m taking this action out of the office of the county attorney and the elected county auditor,” said Fulbright. “Because these are accusations that have a component that involves members of the board, I want to make sure that the board is not involved in directing the investigation, deciding who is doing it, or anything.”
The commissioners all concurred that they were in agreement with his action.
Michael Howell, publisher of the Bitterroot Star, asked Fulbright if his investigation would include the allegations by the newspaper that the treasurer had violated state law and that those violations might amount to official misconduct.
Fulbright told the commissioners that his investigation would be comprehensive and include looking into all allegations, including Mr. Howell’s. He said that Stamey’s statement would be the starting point of the investigation.
“It’s like someone calling and saying someone broke into their house,” said Fulbright. He said the investigation could have a criminal component and also some allegations involving county policy.
“We will make some determination about what is fact and what is speculation,” he said.
He said his office was currently in the process of looking for the most appropriate investigative agency.
Commissioner Greg Chilcott wondered how the commissioners’ investigation, based on their supervisory duties, would dovetail with the county attorney’s investigation.
Fulbright said the investigation his office was instituting in terms of an audit would be comprehensive and thorough. He said it would provide the kind of information the commission might be looking for as well.
Chilcott said that they were also looking at some of their statutory obligations related to the Bitterroot Star’s allegations.
“They would be pertinent to us,” said Chilcott.