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.