With a very serious crisis facing all of us that recently led to our county treasurer being placed on administrative leave, it may seem petty and trivial for the Bitterroot Star to be wagging its finger at the county commission as they usher Treasurer Valerie Stamey out the door, and saying “Yes, and why don’t you fine her $500 for every late report!” But the truth is, it is neither petty nor trivial.
All the big news about possible county corruption, cover ups, missing files, illegal tax lien deals and everything else that Stamey and Commissioners Foss and Stoltz want us to believe brings us full circle to the very center of this cyclone and what it’s all about. It’s not about missing files. It’s about missing reports.
It cannot be overemphasized how important these reports are to agencies, districts, county departments and other entities in our community. The situation has placed a lot of very honest and diligent public servants in the position of not being able to carry out the fiduciary duties that they swore an oath to carry out.
Asking the county commissioners, at this point, to abide by the simple statutes that were enacted to address this problem makes sense. If the treasurer is late with these very time sensitive reports that it is her sworn duty to submit, then let’s fine her $500. That might spur her on a bit. We are sure that’s what the legislators were thinking when they instituted this fine.
The fact that the treasurer could violate her express duty so egregiously, pretty much ignoring the law and the potential fine, is not that surprising. She has a long public record of acts of contempt for the courts and the law. But in this instance, she got away with it only because the commissioners, her supervisors, let her.
Far from being petty or trivial, this question of fines for late reports strikes at the very heart of the debacle unfolding at the treasurer’s office. We think that the failure of both parties to follow the law is telling. Someone has allowed this thing to go on. Someone should have put a stop to this a long time ago. Ask any school clerk in the valley. Ask the Sheriff.
As Mary Hudson-Smith showed us, there may a big learning curve in taking on the treasurer’s position. It could even take six to eight months for slow learners. But anyone with any integrity can figure out in about six weeks whether or not they are capable. Stamey couldn’t figure this out, apparently. And none of her supervisors wanted to tell her.
It is one thing to turn a blind eye to issues like this. It’s another thing altogether to aid and abet it. That’s what Commissioners Foss and Stoltz have done. In fact, they were both working hard behind the scenes to ignite this diversionary smoke screen before Stamey spoke. At least a week before Stamey made her allegations public, Foss and Stoltz were circumventing official channels to get this diversionary investigation of Chilcott and Iman under way.
Commissioner Stoltz told the Bitterroot Star, after Stamey’s announcement, that he did not want to comment because this was the first time he had been presented with these allegations and he needed time to look into it. That’s not true. The week before, he called the sheriff to advocate for just such an investigation and the sheriff told him, like he had just told Foss, that they should take it before the full board and have a majority ask for an investigation. It looks to us like that’s just what they did. Stamey may have made it public, but Stoltz was pushing for it behind the scenes before that. Anything he may say to the contrary just is not true.
Commissioner Foss, who called the Department of Criminal Investigation multiple times in the week prior to Stamey’s statement, was, of course, very much in on it too.
We find Foss’ remarks just prior to the vote that would place the treasurer on administrative leave very interesting. For some reason she felt compelled to discuss the political ramifications at length and deny vehemently that she ever makes any appointment or hires anyone with political considerations in mind.
But the lady doth protest too much, we think.
“It’s really easy to take something like this and turn it into a big political thing,” she said. Then she pleads with us, especially the press, not to take it that way. She feels compelled to tell us that her appointment of Stamey was not political. “In a department as important as the treasurer how dare any of you, frankly, to make such foolish accusations,” she said, and adds, “I don’t have any idea what our employees’ political persuasion is.”
OK, Commissioner Foss, we will take that dare.
So you didn’t know and didn’t bother to ask if the Planning Department Manager you hired was chairman of the Republican Central Committee or not? So you didn’t know or care to ask if Stamey’s husband, who ran against Gary MacLaren for HD89, was a Republican when you placed him on the Planning Board recently? So you didn’t know or care to ask if Stamey’s attorney Robert Myers was a Republican when you recently placed him on two county boards? So you didn’t know or care to ask if Hollis Poe was a Republican when you recently appointed him to three different county boards? So you didn’t know if Susanna Pyron was a Republican before you appointed her to the Planning Board? This litany could go on and on.
But if you really didn’t know any of this, Commissioner Foss, it brings your own competency into question. It means you don’t know what you are doing.
If Stamey had a shred of integrity, she would turn in her resignation and save the commissioners some time in the task of replacing her. If Commissioners Foss and Stoltz had any integrity, they would not wait until November to get the word and they would not make the public wait until next January to get a replacement.
But, alas, integrity, or the lack thereof, has been at the center of this debacle all along.
It is not the public that wants to turn the treasurer’s position into a “political thing.” It is Commissioners Foss and Stoltz who have actually turned the treasurer’s position into an extremely political thing. And now they are reaping what they have sown.