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Treasurer sues auditor for libel

 

By Michael Howell

Ravalli County Treasurer Valerie Stamey, who has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an audit investigation of her office, has filed a lawsuit against the firm that is currently conducting the audit. In the lawsuit Stamey alleges that lead auditor Jim Woy and his company Anderson ZurMuehlen committed libel against her when he wrote in a memo that has been made public, “It is apparent the duties of the Ravalli County Treasurer were not properly executed.”

Stamey’s attorney Robert Myers calls it a “false unprivileged statement” and claims that publication of the statement exposed his client to “hatred, contempt, ridicule, obloquy, caused the Plaintiff to be shunned and avoided, and has a tendency to injure the Plaintiff in her occupation.”

Myers claims that the auditor failed to determine the truth or falsehood of the statement because he did not question Stamey about the evidence that was found. He claims that Stamey was preparing to make deposits of receipts to the bank when she was “illegally suspended” from her duties. He claims that by locking her out of her office they prevented her from doing her duties.

In the lawsuit Myers claims that “a concerted effort to prevent the Plaintiff from executing her duties had begun before she entered the office.” Various employees in the Treasurer’s Office and Chief Finance Officer Klarysse Murphy are named as potential culprits in those efforts. The lawsuit claims that certain structural flaws and the lack of any checks and balances in the system also contributed to the problems in the office. County Attorney and County Auditor Bill Fulbright is also blamed for not properly carrying out his duties, also contributing to the problems.

Stamey is asking the court to award actual damages for injury to occupation, mental anguish, public contempt, ridicule, and hatred affecting her ability to live in the community, consequential damages of loss of future income, future employment opportunities, and interference with the ability to seek elective office. Stamey has filed to run for the Treasurer’s position in the upcoming elections.

She is also seeking punitive damages not to exceed the lesser of three percent of each defendant’s net worth or ten million dollars.

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