Posted: January 20, 2014 at 7:11 am

More to Come Out on Ravalli Commission Scandal

Ravalli County’s Money Problems Snowball;

TEA Party Commissioners Call Disaster “Nothing Unusual”

Old fashioned investigative journalism and public records research by the Bitterroot Star have uncovered some troubling new information in Ravalli County’s ongoing TEA Party financial mismanagement scandal.  It turns out there is an unanswered legal judgement in South Carolina against Ravalli County Treasurer Valerie Stamey.

She is alleged to have deceived a bank by getting a home refinance loan for $17,000 to make a payment to her credit card bill–then using the same check she got from the bank to make  two payments totalling $34,000 for that amount–one electronic over the phone and once through the mail.

A South Carolina court ordered Stamey to pay back the bank the second $17,000 (which they had never loaned her) but but she allegedly made only one payment of $750.  As the Star reports, “No other payments were ever received. She subsequently moved to Montana.”

When asked if she had resolved the issues over the judgment against her in South Carolina, she told the County Commission, “That doesn’t have anything to do with my situation here with my office. I am working towards a resolution.”

Name Game

So it seems Ravalli’s Commissioners didn’t bother to do research before appointing this woman.     Nor did they inquire into why she’s been using so many different names.  As the Bitterroot Star reports,  the treasurer applied for the Ravalli County Treasurer’s position in 2010 under the name Valerie Stamey, but was not selected. Then she worked in food service at the Missoula County Public School District under the name Valerie Addis.  The same person was appointed treasurer under the name Valerie Stamey last fall, but now gets her paychecks from the county under the name Valerie Scott.

Since then, whoever she has has overseen a dizzying array of financial problems, including millions in late or unmade payments and bills, uncollected taxes, backlogs, oddities, tens of thousands of checks stuffed in drawers, and unanswered questions from cities, schools, and fire departments wondering whether they’ll be able to continue to provide emergency services.

Yet the TEA Party Commissioners appear to be attempting to blow off the growing scandal, or sweep it quickly under the rug.

Nothing to See Here Folks, Move Along Please

Commissioner Suzy Foss referred to the scandal as a “transition period for a new treasurer” saying six months of this kind of thing was “not unusual or out of bounds. Indeed, Foss claimed that and that “many other counties have this type of problem” and that she knew of another county with “similar transition problems going on now for eight months but couldn’t remember which county that was.” Right.

Another commissioner tried to deny responsibility for the disaster by saying that it was all out of his hands.

But state law does give the county commissioners power over the Treasurer. If the treasurer fails to make proper reports the commissioners can fine the treasurer, yet they haven’t done so and the requisite reports aren’t done. They have the power to supervise all county officers that deal with money, and can suspend a treasurer from office in some circumstances related to official misconduct. The Bitterroot Star lists the statutes here.

Scandal Continues to Grow

There is more to come out on this scandal.  While the TEA party commissioners try to claim this is normal or that that the problem is out of their hands, the Bitterroot Star is continuing to search out the truth.

It appears that  there is a human rights complaint against Ravalli County that has yet to come to light.

The Star has submitted a public information request for the records related the complaint against their own county government, but for some reason the Human Rights Commission is forcing the star to get a lawyer and pay thousands in legal and copying fees.  [See this PDF of the request for information on the complaint.]

Having to pay big bucks to get public information may be no big deal to large money making machines like Lee Newspapers, but to a small town, locally-owned independent paper intent on actually reporting the workings of its public servants, it’s another story.

If you’re not yet a subscriber to the Bitterroot Star, I encourage you to do so.  That way, you’ll get the local news days if not weeks before it appears in the major dailies.

But even if you don’t subscribe for the shocking coverage of Ravalli County’s government,  do it to see how a real local paper is putting the state’s major dailies to shame by actually engaging in investigative journalism as opposed to running oil and gas company ads as fake newswaiting for pre-packaged tips to fall into their laps or simply running “he said, she said” style quotes from the political candidates and considering the matter closed.

You can also make a contribution to the public information request fund, which this locally-owned paper can’t really afford, by sending a check to the Bitterroot Star with “Human Rights Complaint” written in the memo to: 215 Main St., PO Box 8, Stevensville, MT  59870.

Finally, remember that the TEA Party Republicans want control of the next legislature, but look what’s happening now that they have control of Ravalli County and consider whether that’s a good idea.

17 comments

  1. Moorcat

    It should be noted that a number of commissioners (Including Greg Chilcott) are attempting to remedy the situation. He has demanded a letter of explanation from Valerie and he is also pushing to have her removed. This doesn’t mitigate the severity of what is happening in Ravalli County, but you continue to paint everyone from Ravalli County as a complete wingnut and idiot. That simply isn’t true. Fosy is Wingnut and idiot. Thomas is a Wingnut and idiot. Chilcott isn’t and there are plenty more where he came from.

    • Bob Williams

      Moorcat, please to read again, not everyone BEING ACCUSED of being wingnut And idiot. That is a terribly inaccurate representation! Not indicated, indicted or accused. Responsible comments avoid false labeling to the public! Responsible living says I got to avoid the mis-labeling I DO; Especially with new evidence every week, about anomalies w Ravalli County Commissioners.

      • Moorcat

        The three commissioners protecting this questionable treasurer ARE wingnuts. They have proven it over and over. I will call them as I see them. You are welcome to disagree with me all you want.

  2. Carlotta Grandstaff

    The meeting between the commissioners and the school superintendents (and fire chiefs and irrigation district managers) on Jan. 13 was a standing room only affair. The result was that the commission, or one or two commissioners, ordered the county CFO to cut checks from claims (as opposed to treasury, which collects and disburses taxes) to those schools and fire depts. Whether this is legal or not has been a matter of quiet, private discussions, but no one wants to bring it up because everyone wants schools, libraries, etc. to get their tax money. The commission also ordered this legally suspicious check-writing outside the public eye, quietly and without notice. It’s all so shady, but, unfortunately, it probably won’t be resolved until Stamey, Foss, et al, are long down the road and not around to take responsibility. So many tea bag crooks here in Ravalli County. It’s gone from appalling to hilarious to very sad.

    • Bob Williams

      Nice work on who cut which checks!

      I’m old and mis a lot but last week
      Kevin Maki got camera in optimal
      Places and was only one to acknowledge THE STAR for breaking the story re the rather criminal intent sounding story of Valerie defrauding
      Etc

      My guess? Tomorrow she turns the table around.

  3. James Conner

    County treasurer is a skills job that should be filled on the basis of professional credentials. It shouldn’t be a political position. But as long as it is, situations like this one are inevitable.

        • Sal

          Missoula County Treasurer is an elected position and seems to work pretty well. Much better than the one assigned on the basis of political patronage in Ravalli County.

          • James Conner

            County treasurers execute policy. They do not make it. Policy makers should be elected. Policy executers should be hired on the basis of professional qualifications. Not only does that increase the probability of competency, but it allows the swift dismissal of a treasurer who proves unfit for the job.

            • Bob Williams

              OK now I do get it.
              Competent Commissioners
              Could have moved to mediate Treasurer problems long before now.

              And flip side has been case; incompetency has allowed even fostered dystopia in ? 3-5 Departments

              Therefore, new candidate for Commissioner needs what qualifications?

              Really simplifies discussion
              By trumping ( temporary )
              Political ideology and
              Associations!

              Yes you are absolutely correct, past time for public discussion of qualifications
              For new Commissioners.

              ? So far one Independent, ? No Democrat ?! A Republican from Foss’s District

        • Moorcat

          I guess I would have to disagree, James. I would much rather see a treasurer elected instead of chosen (and beholden to) the executive officers. Not withstanding the issues in Ravalli county, we are seeing similar problems here in Dillon. The last mayor hired a man to be a full time treasurer for Dillon – a man that brags about “creative bookkeeping – his words” – and now the new mayor is having to fight to get rid of him and get a part time treasurer (all Dillon really needs). So yes, I would much rather see a treasurer elected and let the voters determine who is the most qualified for the position.

  4. ThinkFirst

    This is about embezzlement — and GREED trumps politics. This woman is cleaning out the county’s taxpayers. Embezzlers don’t serve time — and every time they get away with it or see articles that keep saying that if you’re a middle-aged woman who draws a paycheck from the employer you can take as much as you want. They need to get professional law enforcement involved in this – and that’s got to be someone better than the local sheriff’s department. The FBI has an embezzlement unit — that would be my pick.

    • Mike

      I have heard the rumor going around that Stamey is an undercover agent investigating the commissioners (the least right-wing commissioners) for embezzlement, but find it a joke. You don’t need an undercover agent to investigate someone for embezzling, you order an audit. I don’t buy this, and can’t believe this rumor is even out there.

  5. Bob Williams

    Seems like real issues are being not discussed, in favor of election/appointment cost/benefit discussions!

    News is that Commissioners may have taken $ from CFO BOOKS
    COVERED THAT UP
    AND CREATED A MILLION PLUS $IOU
    OF THE TREASURY
    OK? W State?

    Anointing Appointing?
    Election thru R and D duopoly?

    The R central party seems to work
    Both processes!

    To a TEE!

    And introduce new processes,
    Like a 1/4 million to buy out centrist
    County Attorney

    Legislation to lower qualifications for Planning, put in Party Chair and replace all staff w ?whose people?

    Yep, Road and Bridge best illustration
    Of Commissioners Stolz and Burrows utilizing any means possible to put their people in power.

    Of course Stolz and Foss have long labored through failure after failure,
    To replace The Treasurer, with one of
    Their own.

    Yep, this year we could petition to return to 3 Commissioners,
    Vote on those three,
    And conserving tradition
    Go back to Departments report to
    The 3Commissioners as a whole unit

    That would take away
    Pretend hands-on management
    Klumzy over management

    Incompetent Treasurer

    And incompetent Commissioners
    Cause all three must have

    Accounting, spreadsheet
    And budgeting experience
    DURING THE SHAKEOUT
    FROM TWO YEARS OF
    WILLFULL NEGLECT OF
    RAVALLI COUNTY TREASURER
    OFFICE, SYSTEM, AND PERSONNEL.

    Please consider the alternative!
    Elect one or maybe two progressive
    Commissioners while hoping mainstream Ravalli Republicans
    Will put forward a winning candidate
    Or two!

    It’s back to priorities!
    County Attorney has possibly been
    Approving all these anomalies

    Zoning = no zoning ~ Unnecessary devaluation of property in Hamilton that abuts unzoned County Property.
    ? No monitor well below Mildenberger
    Subdivision, re-division! ?!legacy Ranch Subdivision has right to lower water table in nearby well,
    And pass on a load to Lone Pine?

    Road and Bridge
    And Grant Writing to somehow
    Work from Audit revealed problems
    And present structured Case
    For new State Federal Funds

    And The Office of the Treasury??

    And bring back Public Health,
    The Humane Society,
    And fiscal responsibility!

    And RESPECT OF WORKERS

    Pardon the length, been trying
    To help locals focus forward

    Whilst detailing to beyond the
    Bitterroot, a sort of, outline form,
    With highlights!

    FOR A SUPER VIEW OF WHAT’S DOING IN THE BITTERROOT
    GOOGLE TO RAVALLI COUNTY COMMISSIONERS TO NBC (10 days back) KEVIN MAKI DOES SUPER GOOD JOB LETTING YOU SEE
    THE KEY PLAYERS
    SPEAK THEIR REASONS

    AWARD WINNING QUALITY VIDEO
    I thought, but I am old.

  6. Larry Campbell

    Yesterday was a marathon Ravalli County Commissioner meeting dealing with the fiasco in the Treasurer’s office brought on by the folks who ran as fiscal conservatives. Turns out the requisite ‘R’ after the name of their appointed Treasurer did not stand for ‘R’ithmatic as theTPartiers thought. The Commissioners were forced to deal with this particular issue in the long list of TParty fiascos due to the diligence of the Bitterroot Star, a family owned newspaper. The investigative reporting by Michael Howell is virtually unheard of these days of corporate media. It is not cheap. The Star has been stuck with huge bills for using the not-so-free Freedom of Information Act to buy access to public information. And the fact that the truth alone does little good in a community where local ‘democracy’ is held hostage by TPartiers has forced the Bitterroot Star to resort to legal expenses underwriting their credible ability to go to court.
    I urge anybody across the State of Montana who cares about actual journalism, and the “rest of the story” that usually doesn’t get told, to send in a check (see story above for address) for a subscription to the Bitterroot Star. That will support the investigative journalism that has been honed for decades, increase the circulation numbers of the Star, and support the simple needs of the Montana family that owns and runs this independent newspaper, one of the last remnants left of the independent fourth estate.