By Michael Howell
Former Treasurer Valerie Stamey, aka Valerie Addis, aka Valerie Scott, has appealed a Missoula District Court ruling that would have allowed the release to the public of that portion of her employment records with the Missoula County Public School District relating to any disciplinary issues concerning financial misconduct. Stamey worked at the school district as a Food Service Supervisor under the name of Valerie Addis from August 2007 until abruptly resigning in February 2011. Stamey claims that the disciplinary information is protected under privacy laws and has appealed the order of disclosure to the Montana Supreme Court.
The Bitterroot Star made a request in January 2014 to the school district, asking for disclosure of any documents reflecting disciplinary issues in which Valerie Addis (Stamey) was alleged to have engaged in fraudulent or illegal activity. Instead of answering, the school district filed a petition in Missoula District Court seeking a declaratory decision from the Court as to what could be released and what could not. District Court Judge Karen Townsend issued an order on July 17 stating that, due to Stamey’s position at the school district as Supervisor of Food Service and the fact that she was in control of department funds, she was in a position of “public trust” and as such any documents concerning illegal behavior related to finances should be considered public documents and available to the public upon request. The documents determined to be open to public examination included a few documents about “alleged misuse of School District funds,” and some associated letters and memos. The documents were withheld, however, giving Stamey a chance to file an appeal by July 28.
That appeal was filed and an order was issued on July 29 staying the District Court Order pending appeal.
The court determined that if the documents were released it would render moot Stamey’s right to privacy in the documents and deprive her of her right to appeal to the Supreme Court. The Court stated that release of the documents at this time “is a substantial and permanent harm to Valerie to which deference should be granted.” The Court also noted that the media will still have access to the information if Stamey’s appeal is unsuccessful and will not be deprived of its rights to persuade the Supreme Court.