By Michael Howell
Last Wednesday, June 25, Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright told the County Commissioners that the long anticipated lawsuit against Interim Treasurer Valerie Stamey charging her with Official Misconduct had been filed. The county is also seeking $29,000 for 58 separate instances of failing to fulfill her statutory duties as Treasurer by refusing or neglecting to file reports or make settlements. The Commissioners decided Wednesday, based on the findings documented in that lawsuit, to suspend Stamey without pay pending the outcome of the lawsuit. Stamey has been on administrative leave with pay since January while a couple of investigations initiated by the County Attorney’s office were being conducted.
One was an investigation by retired Judge Nels Swandal into the various allegations, including alleged criminal activity, levelled by Stamey against a few Treasurer’s Office employees, the County’s Chief Financial Officer, a few of the County Commissioners and the County Attorney. Swandal found no evidence substantiating the allegations. Sheriff Chris Hoffman told the Commissioners that one reason his office never responded to Stamey’s allegations is that no evidence of any wrongdoing had ever been submitted to his office or the County Attorney’s office.
The report on the status of the Treasurer’s Office by the accounting firm Anderson-Zurmuehlen, along with testimony by many of the agencies and departments which had failed to receive the required reports from the Treasurer’s Office, formed the basis for the finding that Stamey was guilty of official misconduct for her failure to carry out her duties as defined by law.
Commissioner Jeff Burrows said that he was not surprised that Stamey had not shown up at the meeting. He noted that over the course of the whole debacle she had chosen not to appear and had never submitted any evidence in her defense. He moved to suspend Stamey without pay effective immediately.
Commissioner J.R. Iman seconded the motion and said, “This has been a difficult situation. It’s time to end it and go about the process of making our government whole again.”
Burrows praised the employees, the staff and all the departments and agencies involved that helped during the extended process of returning the Treasurer’s Office to a functioning state.
“It’s been frustrating and a hardship on them. It will be an expensive lesson, but we are going to come out of this with a better county and a better Treasurer’s Office,” said Burrows.
Commission Chairman Greg Chilcott said, “This has been a very arduous process on the public, this body and the staff.” He thanked everyone involved for their patience and diligence in getting through the process. He also noted that Stamey had been given many opportunities to present facts and evidence in her favor, but said, “it has not happened.”
The vote to suspend Stamey immediately without pay was passed on a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Ron Stoltz declined to attend the meeting stating that he also missed the meeting that established the facts under consideration and thus was not in a position to vote.
The Commissioners discussed scheduling a meeting in the near future to decide on the process for appointing a replacement for Stamey and/or making the appointment, but no meeting has yet been scheduled.