Things Fall Apart

A Case Study in TEA Party Incompetence

TEA party excels at manipulating the republican party, but are incompetent boobs when it comes to actually governing.  This shouldn’t be a surprise.  After all, the TEA Party mantra is that government can’t do the job.  So now that they are the government, they are in a bind. Even if they had the intellectual capacity to run things, to do so would actually undermine everything they claim to believe.

Case in point, Ravalli County. The Bitterroot is TEA Party ground zero these days.  The 100% GOP county commission has provided us with a striking case study of TEA Party fiscal management in action.

County documents uncovered in a public records request  by the Bitterroot Star “paint a picture of systematic failures on the part of the treasurer’s office” since county commissioners appointed a new treasurer four months ago.  The Star found a somewhat dizzying array of examples of late or unmade payments and bills, uncollected taxes, backlogs, oddities, tens of thousands of checks stuffed in drawers, and unanswered verification requests from cities, schools, and fire departments.

In August, Ravalli County Commissioners were tasked with appointing a county treasurer, the person in charge of managing the county’s finances.  They were expected to interview and hire the person most qualified for the job.  But some local residents and county employees aren’t so sure that’s what happened.  County minutes and newspaper reports show the TEA Party commissioners made a special addition to the list of candidates they interviewed.

Valerie Stamey, a former lunch lady (or school foods supervisor as they are called these days) who served as precinct committee person for the Ravalli County Republican Party was added to the list at the last minute. Stamey had campaigned for the position of treasurer in 2012, but lost not to another Republican in the conservative county. She also faired poorly in the straw poll at the GOP convention, where the voters were hardcore party faithful.

However, with the help of letters of support from TEA Party stalwarts like climate change deniers–Stamey was ushered in.  While commissioners don’t appear to have said much publicly about her fiscal experience and financial qualifications, they were quick to point out her “great attitude.”

As the Ravalli Republic reports, TEA Party County Commission chair Jeff Burrows:

said the commission was taken by Stamey’s “great attitude” toward the position. “A lot of her interview focused on her desire to serve,” Burrows said. “She was excited about serving the county.”

Burrows said Stamey offered a number of ideas on how the public could be better served by the treasurer’s office,

For some reason, the article does not say what those ideas were. Nor does Stamey offer any specifics in interviews she gave during her unsuccessful electoral campaign for the county treasurer position.  Stamey offered vaguely that there are “a lot of things that need to be changed at the local, state and federal level…I think I can change things back to common sense government.” Said Stamey:

The treasurers office is a huge responsibility and I think it needs someone that asks the questions, and makes sure we have the pieces in place to not fall apart.”

But it appears that falling apart is exactly what’s happening.

Financial reports from the county’s own Chief Financial Officer show that the county has only collected $176,000 in property taxes this year – last year they had collected more than $5.6 million during the same time period.

Apparently, there’s a growing list of people who have no indication of whether nor not the taxes they paid were received by the county, and a growing list of cities who have not been paid funds that the county owes them. Cities and fire departments have asked the county to verify that payments that are going out are even correct–and have received no answer, the Bitterroot Star reports.

Employees have been voicing their concern about the bungled finances for months. As the Ravalli Republic reports, employees say the TEA Party treasurer hasn’t managed to pick on the training the employees have tried to provide. “Valerie can’t even bundle money right… That is something that you learn at McDonald’s on your first job.” Three of the treasurer’s top employees have resigned.

The county got a letter from the bank saying its funds had dropped below contractual requirements.  Someone attempted to post funds to accounts that don’t exist. Economic development funds from the state that the county is supposed to distribute were not going out on time either. Basically, the bills aren’t being paid.

The Bitterroot Star information request uncovered some other bizarre incidents.  One day, a county employee found checks totaling $22,413.41 and cash totaling $100 locked in the new treasurer’s desk. According to the Bitterroot Star, there was one day when the treasurer asked county employees to come to her office to “count out personal monies [Stamey] had gotten from her bank to be able to open the office since she could not get into the safe.”

Stamey told commissioners this week that she is willing to do “whatever is necessary to get the wheels back on the bus so to speak.” But she also appeared to blame the money problems on others – saying the previous treasurer (her opponent in the last election) didn’t leave “documentation” to help her transition into the treasurer job and complained that the county “lacked some best management practices used in other counties” whatever that means.

The TEA Party, and the Republicans, who handed them the reins, should not be allowed anywhere near anything of importance, including the economy, health care, and education.

Posted: January 7, 2014 at 9:12 pm

23 thoughts on “Things Fall Apart

  1. MTNativeEyes

    The TEA party might not think it’s especially enamored of third-world economies, but that’s what this style of business will get you.

  2. Drifter

    County-level offices are not really intended to be political. The duties of each office are clearly defined by statute, but many officials either have not perused the codes or are scofflaws. In the olden days big crews toiled for weeks to manually type tax statements, organize them, mail them out in a timely fashion and kept cranking until all payments were entered. These days, computers do everything; when a payment is entered, software takes everything from there. It would likely take somebody smart less than a week to enter the backlog of payments. Not only are other entities not receiving their funds, but the county is losing out on interest from timely bank deposits. Can you say fi-du-ci-a-ry? Can you spell it? It is sad, but true that county commissioners have absolutely no sway with other elected officials.

    1. Mike

      So they appointed someone who was not qualified , and are now stuck with her?! Must she be recalled even though she wasn’t elected ?! The county needs to step up and fix the commissioners mistake.

        1. Mike

          That’s another full year almost of this – it just seems wrong that the County can’t fire her. If someone is elected, that they can’t be recalled either, practically speaking. Look at the Yellowstone County Treasurer – different problem, but its the same in that there is no solution.

          These commissioners deserve to be recalled for appointing her.

          1. Mike

            Not that I believe these commissioners would fire her. They probably don’t care that the government is going to hell.

    2. Surelyyoujest11

      Drifter said: “It is sad, but true that county commissioners have absolutely no sway with other elected officials.”

      That is mostly correct. The only real power commissioners have over elected officials is in the budgeting process as they have to approve the budgets of each department.

      1. Carlotta Grandstaff

        If I read the law correctly, County Commissioners do have the authority to supervise an elected official under 7-4-2110. The problem in Ravalli County is that the decision to remove her has to be a majority vote. Right now, the vote is still 3-2 to keep her in place. Commissioner JR Iman, one of the two voices of reason on the board, has been working Jeff Burrows, and trying to get him to change his mind on Stamey. The other two commissioners voting to appoint a clearly incompetent and unqualified candidate, Foss and Stoltz, aren’t smart enough to see the terrible consequences of their action. So Burrows is the swing vote. On Monday, Jan. 13, the commission will meet with representatives from all seven of the county’s school districts to hear just exactly where the public schools are financially at this point in time during this reign of chaos. Should be an interesting meeting. I plan to be there so I’ll let you know how it shakes out. BTW: the treasurer debacle is currently the ONLY topic of conversation in the Bitterroot.

  3. Abe Froman

    Wow, what a mess! You’d almost think that the tea baggers would want such a thing to happen…to subvert and destroy the functioning of local government and the tax authority. But I think they are actually just very stupid and incompetent.

    1. Publius II

      I read the ‘testimonials’ for this buffoon – AND the communications AGAINST her appointment – and none of tsupporters offered any evidence of her financial and fiscal experiences and skills, like certified accountant, fiscal management, etc.

  4. seeker1956

    You hit the nail on the head, Cowgirl. These idiots think government is evil and is out to get each and every one of us. They presume to think they can manage county affairs better than the experts in charge of the various departments. With no education or background, and just the bible to lead them, they think they are capable of managing federal lands. I just hope other Ravalli County residents realize just how horrible things would be if these people had any more power, and God help us if they somehow get control of our wonderful forests.

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  6. Craig Moore

    Damn……………….. I thought it was your obdurate nemesis trotting out a new business venture.

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