TEA Party Tries to Distance Itself from Ravalli Financial Scandal

You know things have gotten bad when it’s the TEA Party trying to distance itself from the Republicans instead of the other way around.

The Ravalli County TEA Party has contacted the Cowgirl Blog in an attempt to distance itself from Ravalli County’s infamous financial mismanagement scandal. As you know, Ravalli Commissioners appointed a treasurer who was heavily involved in local politics. Since then, the Bitterroot Star and other news outlets have reported on a dizzying array of examples of late or unmade payments and bills, uncollected taxes, backlogs, oddities, tens of thousands of checks stuffed in drawers, hundreds of thousands in undeposited payments–and unanswered requests for information on what exactly is going on from cities, schools, libraries, and fire departments.

A leader of the Ravalli County TEA Party group wrote in to say of those involved in the ongoing financial scandal–Valerie Stamey, Suzy Foss, Jeff Burrows, and Ron Stoltz, “While you may consider these people Tea Party people, we in the Tea Party have no reason to believe that is true.”

Jennine Jones, the former president and current board member of the local TEA Party, said Valerie Stamey is not an “active member” of the group and is not on the group’s email list. She says that County Commissioner’s Suzy Foss, Jeff Burrows and Ron Stoltz, are also not active members. The TEA Party leader does admit they’ve attended meetings–but she says this was only “very sporadically.” The TEA party doesn’t say which commissioners are on its email list.

To be sure, there are many would say that there is no longer any clear distinction that can be drawn between the TEA Party and the Montana GOP. Certainly a compelling case could also be made that Ravalli Republicans are quite at home in the realm of bullet-ridden “Obama Library” outhouses, tin-foil hats, and Sasquatch conspiracy theories.

Let’s take a look at whether the Ravalli TEA Party’s claims have any merit.

On one hand, it was the local Pachyderm club of the Ravalli County Republican Party which hosted Stamey’s bizarre speech following her suspension without pay.  Also, Stamey was a Republican Precinct committee leader.

Commissioner Suzy Foss has continued to claim the the decision to hire fellow Republican and Precinct Committee chair Valerie Stamey wasn’t political and indeed that “her county hiring decisions are never based on political connections.”  But it turns out this isn’t the first Republican political leader Foss has appointed to a county position.

Previously, Foss made the local Republican Party Chair the head of the county planning board.  The GOP chair was appointed quietly in a meeting that didn’t follow public notice laws.

And here’s an appointment which perhaps you haven’t yet considered.  The same commissioners who who appointed Valerie Stamey as treasurer also replaced TEA Party candidate Jan Wisniewski with none other than Valerie Stamey’s own husband Richard Stamey to the Ravalli County Planning Board.  Cowgirl readers remember Wisniewski as the infamous planning board member who said tribal sovereignty should be opposed because Hill County officials say their jails are full of “drunken indians.”

While the county commissioners were forced to issue a public apology of sorts to the tribes after Wisniewski’s remarks were met with public outcry.  Foss privately wrote to GOP vice-Chair Sen. Jennifer Fielder to tell her, in a poorly written email peppered with grammatical errors, that she believes that allowing tribes access to their lawfully negotiated water rights will lead to “the end of private property rights and most importantly our water rights as the Sovereign State of Montana.” (You can read Foss’s email below the fold.)

But there is also a strong case to be made that this bunch are indeed TEA Partiers.

Richard Stamey was a TEA Party Republican candidate for legislature.  He ran as the far right alternative to establishment incumbent Gary MacLaren.  During the campaign, Ravalli Treasurer Valerie Stamey served as Richard Stamey’s campaign treasurer.  After the election, the Commissioner of Political Practices ruled that the “Stameys had committed multiple violations of the Montana Campaign Practices Act, including the late filing of financial reports,” the Bitterroot Star reported.

The Oath

The Ravalli commissioners also have a proven record of wing-nut affiliations and actions.

Some of them have even signed their names to an “oath of office” demanding a “County Militia” in which it would be the county sheriff’s job was to conscript each able-bodied man for at least three weeks every year.  Jeff Burrows, Suzy Foss, Valerie Stamey and her husband Richard Stamey all signed onto the oath, written by the Celebrating Conservatism group, the precursor to the local TEA Party.
The oath is is actually posted on the Ravalli County website.  Besides calling for a conscripted county militia, the oath lists several other bizarre demands to which the Stameys, Foss and Burrows have given their public support.

For example, the signers believe that women in Ravalli County must also be conscripted by the sheriff, but that women, like those “unwilling” to serve would be “relegated to noncombat services.” Presumably this would mostly involve making snack cakes, unless of course the Bitterroot manfolk were “in danger of being overrun.” If the thousands of Ravalli women were more than sufficient to supply the militia with snack cakes, surely something else would be found to which the ladies, the unwilling, and the non-able bodied could be “relegated.”

The oath signed by Burrows, Foss, and the Stameys demands that Ravalli County officials “require all Federal officials and other representatives of the United States of America to obtain written permission of the Sheriff with support of the County Commissioners prior to approaching any of the Citizens of this County.”

Conspiracy Theories

In spite of the fact that Ravalli County was the source of a recent whooping cough outbreak, the oath’s signers vow to “Prohibit all mandatory vaccinations” within the county.

This isn’t the only evidence that county officials seem to be skeptical of public health advancements from the past 150 years.  Burrows, Foss, and Commissioner Ron Stoltz all voted to eliminate women’s health services in the county entirely and shutter the family planning and cancer screening clinic there.

Recall that one commissioner, Jeff Burrows himself was found to be the administrator of a conspiracy theory blog about the imminent threat posed by the “control forces” in government.  For example, the blog includes warnings that government immunization programs are really stealth campaigns to implant nano-chips into our brains.

Suzy Foss is no stranger to the right wing message board scene herself.  She apparently spends her time providing interviews to secessionist blogs.

Foss’s family has refused to comply with the county’s own noxious weeds policy, which for those of you not from Montana, is a big deal in agriculture communities–especially since the Foss’s was the biggest problem land tract in the county, the Ravalli Republic reported.

Ultimately Suzy Foss, Jeff Burrows, Ron Stoltz, and Valerie and Richard Stamey have shown through their actions and affiliations that they are both TEA Partiers and Republicans – and neither group will be able to successfully distance itself from their incompetence.

Foss’s bizarre letter that in which she states her belief that tribal water rights will lead to the end of private property is below.

From: Lee Foss <lfoss47@gmail.com>
Date: January 31, 2014 at 8:49:29 AM MST
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Open letter from Commissioner Foss to Senator Fielder
Reply-To: leefoss@bitterrootland.com

Dear Senator Fielder,

The Fed is broke yet they just announced the new agreement with the CSKT funding the acquisition of private property within the tribal boundaries at the cost to the tax payers.  I can just about guarantee that the acquisitions will not end once the land inside the reservation ends as our valley was referred to by CSKT representatives in our commission meeting room as the Bitterroot Reservation!  They have acquired two properties on the river thus far and identified up to 7 sites of religious import.  I have no issue with the tribe nor their religious beliefs.  What concerns me is that the Federal government is expending tax dollars to the tribes to purchase land off reservation along with water our state giving the tribes water rights off reservation via the USFS.  Seeing what happened in Wyoming brings up many concerns on how these actions in our state could escalate into a similar situation.

We must at least consider following Oklahoma and Wyoming (think Wind River Reservation and Riverton, WY) and use Jurisdiction and whatever other appropriate legal options to protect the State of Montana from more Federal control over private property.  Once the tribes transfer “their” land into the “protection” of the BIA in Trust we know who will drive the bus moving forward.

I know that you, Representative Balance and others have more knowledge regarding this than anyone else in the state and I applaud you in your ongoing efforts to educated our public and to move forward in the legislature to come up with real solutions.  The CSKT Compact is just one stepping stone, as written today, towards the end of private property rights and most importantly our water rights as the Sovereign State of Montana.

Thank you for your courage and commitment to our state,

Suzy Foss

Ravalli County Commissioner

215 So. 4th Street, Suite A

Hamilton, MT 59840

Phone: 406-375-6510 Office

406-360-1344 Cell

Email: sfoss@rc.mt.gov


33 Comments on "TEA Party Tries to Distance Itself from Ravalli Financial Scandal"

  1. PUBLIC HEALTH BULLETIN | February 15, 2014 12:42 PM at 12:42 PM |

    It is recommended that you make sure your vaccinations are up to date before you visit Ravalli County, because a lot of Bitterrooters believe vaccination is a Government Conspiracy and therefore don’t get them. Safety first.

    • You don’t get a vaccination to save your precious self; you get it to save your community. If you’re one of only a handful with current shots, the environment for pathogens is favorable and infections can get real traction and run at will. Get your whole town vaccinated and the flu will make few or no inroads. When you don’t get your kids vaccinated, you’re not just saying, “I don’t care what happens to my kids,” you’re saying, “I really don’t care about anyone’s children.” Where are the public health officials, doctors, and nurses?!

  2. This tea Party group was taken over by Republicans and from what I hear have a bout 25 members. So we’ll they support the Republican incumbents?

  3. INSANE……if they’re so dead set against the ‘feds’ then will they refuse
    their fed $$$$$$$$$, retirement, ‘socialized’ medicine like medicare (and YES< there ARE teabaggers exploiting medicaid and 'gummint' but won't
    ADMIT it)……………

  4. The Ravalli County Tea Party is a complicated thing. About a year ago, they decided to rebrand themselves and became involved with Americans For Prosperity. They held a “Montana Energy Freedom Tour” in Hamilton with a free screening of FrackNation and talks on what you can do to reclaim the Treasure State.
    The brand new head of this group is Colonel David Bedey, who also is the board chair of the Hamilton School District board of trustees. Even more curious is the fact that his sister, Jennifer Ray, is running against embattled Ravalli County Treasurer Valerie Stamey as a Republican in the primary.
    Then, Jennine Jones, who was one of the founding mothers of the original Ravalli County Tea Party, writes in with her grand denial. I think she’s been relegated to her quilting circle. The proud heritage of the Bitterroot TEA’s seems to be rapidly unraveling. There doesn’t seem to be a clear leader of this supposedly leaderless group. The only constant member who seems to be everywhere is Nancy Ballance, retired senior vice president of Zurich’s Farmers Insurance Group and head of Zurich’s global e-business exchange, secessionist and proud spokesmodel for everything TEA related.

  5. What Cowgirl writes:

    You know things have gotten bad when it’s the TEA Party trying to distance itself from the Republicans instead of the other way around.

    What Democrats read:

    blah blah blah blah TEA PARTY blah blah blah blah TEA PARTY blah blah blah blah we’re smart they’re dumb blah blah blah blah TEA PARTY blah blah blah we’re smart they’re dumb blah blah blah blah …-

    There. Capsulized it for you.

    • Can’t…resist…urge…to…feed…the Troll!!!

      What Mark writes:

      Hurr durr…derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp derp….

      What everybody else reads:

      blah blah blah blah Unwarranted Sense of Self-Importance blah blah blah blah blah Unmitigated Craving for Attention blah blah blah blah blah Really Unwarranted Superiority Complex blah blah blah….

      Encapsulate that, Mark!

      • It’s a question not of truth, but rather of who is closest to it, gw. If we are both searching for truth, and I have been through and thought about and discarded party politics as having any real meaning, do I have an “unwarranted superiority complex?” Am I not merely a little further down the path? (The further down this path, by the way, the less traffic there is.)

        Should I pretend not to understand what I understand just to fit in and not offend people who have not yet seen through it?

        I am of the opinion that people who self-validate in party politics are not interested in truth or substantial matters of public policy, but rather only want moral and intellectual superiority over their perceived opponents. And the Tea Party serves that purpose. And yet you turn it on me and say that I am I. Search of intellectual superiority, when it is really you. You are projecting.

        Now go play with your friends, gw, come back when you’ve moved down the road a bit. Party politics is a roadblock to truth.

        • I actually largely agree with you with respect to party politics, Mark. I just try not to be a jerk about it. Or be a jerk in general. (Except maybe to trolls.)

          Project that.

          • If general cynicism is warranted, and if merely saying things that are true is being a jerk, then I embrace jerkiness! … no, honor it! … and all of the other jerks who actually treat American politics for what it is: distraction.

  6. Extremism’s extremism. We don’t have to be constricted by their definition of themselves. I think the best example of what’s going on in the Broot re: the “Tea Party” is Nancy Ballance. Time and time again she has proudly and publicly identified herself as a “teapartier” while simultaneously promoting, defending and otherwise covering for all these characters whom Jennie Jones now claims don’t attend all their knitting circles and therefore are not “members”. And Ms Ballance is just the most convenient example. The Bitterroot’s riddled with similar examples, including Stamey and Foss, and they’re behavior fits a now-familiar M.O. Wreck the place and then blame the dog. It’s a personality disorder in my opinion. Not to say personality disorders are confined to freeman-sovereign citizen-type extremism but it sure is a handy self-justifying doctrine for acting out destructively and then denying accountability while all the time preaching to the rest of us about accountability!!(??) It’s dizzying and the only constant in the whole snarl is the developers who fund these creeps to wreck the place and then abscond with the funds (and the land). They do love fools in office, don’t they? This is ridiculous. Let Jones and In2it fight about how many angels dance on a pinhead. Actions speak loudest. Far-Right extremism is Far-Right extremism. This kind of purist infighting is common among sovereign citizen movements in Montana’s recent history, which this whole tea party nonsense is just the latest iteration of. Only difference now is that there was national money behind these and countless other dysfunctionals, and the mess is in full public view. Is this they only way we can learn? Call it a dogfight, anyways, and hope neither dog wins.

  7. The majority of the conservatives in Ravalli County have been around for a long time and have been looking for their true identity for years. I remember when the original Constitution Party 10 years ago had to disband because of a fundamental disagreement about which translation of the Bible they wanted to promote as the foundation of the Constitution. They opened the door to the out of state whackjobs when they freaked out because a couple of Democrats managed to get elected as County Commissioners in 2007. Now the old school party faithfuls are trying their damnedest to run away from the apocalyptic end of the worlders to promote the merely obstructionists. Ray Hawk, long time foot dragger is getting unqualified support from what’s left of the old guard Republican central committee members. In the meantime, any rational thinking Bitterrooter has absolutely no motivation to wade into the freakshow that is local politics. So, we end up with exactly what we have, sociopathic egotists who are standing in line for their 15 minutes of fame.

    • Yep, Constitution Party (‘Taliban’ constitutionalists with no tolerance of anything but Christianity mostly aimed at evangelicals) ‘flubbed’ along till it morphed along with remnants of the ‘Freemen’ fools and mixtures of other ‘birthers, old Birchers and other ‘gems’ in the frothy mix of ‘Santorum’….

  8. Smartly put Corrine. And Ray (0% rating from MHRN) Hawk will probably be our next commissioner unless we really peel back the onion on the developers who plague us with their freak shows. He’ll be seen as a “moderate”, and if people don’t wise up, the show will go on.

    • Bill, in the big picture that is the bizarro world of politics in the Bitterroot, the argument could be made that Ray Hawk is a moderate. He’s not a secessionist seditionist and he actually understands and respects Robert’s Rules. Until we can attract and recruit a whole lot more logical thinkers here in Ravalli County, we will need to figure out how to watch the freak show without losing our minds.

      • Corrine, can’t argue with any of your points. But Ray as a commissioner won’t be progress, and I don’t see any point in helping him win an election. The “moderate” Rs are the ones ultimately responsible for this mess to begin with. Chilcott and Imann have voted 5-0 in lockstep with our trio’s county supremacists schemes. It’s called pandering, either gutless or conniving. Doesn’t matter. Either way an unreformed R is as bad as a tea bagger. Worse. They’re not as honest. Frankly.

        • You are right, Bill. There won’t be any help from anyone I know to get him elected. The reality is, unless someone with a fire in their belly steps up to run against him, there won’t be any hindrance, either. Hawk seems to have the support of the old guard. Who knew, back when we were fighting against the likes of Betty Lund and Howard Lyons that it could get much, much worse. Seriously, what is the difference between an unreformed R and a Teabagger? They are all listed on the ravcogop.com website.

  9. I read your complaints but I do not see a recommended plan of action. Your situation is not unique when you consider that, due to district demographics, 85% of the legislative seats will be sewed up in the primary election. Get off your keyboards and find a candidate to run against Balance and maybe consider some support for Connell. There is a path out of misery but it involves cooperation between forces that are not normally aligned. You are staring into the abyss and – the abyss is staring into you. Get to work and quit whining.

    • This is, in a nutshell, the problem: you can only see putting new faces in old places as the solution. That’s called merry-go-round thinking. Gets you nowhere.

    • I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.
      OK, Skipper, I’ll get right on it.
      Find a candidate to run against Ballance…check
      Build unusual coalitions to overcome the insanity…check
      Quit whining…check
      Get off keyboard…

  10. Lately watching the MT/Tea Party is just like watching the implosion of one of those Religious Cults from the 70’s.

  11. Just for the cyber-record: Corrine and I are good friends and we could be having our political nuts-and-bolts conversations in private. Reason I’m responding here is cuz this mess is in our neck of the woods, we’re well-versed on its causes and history, both of us and many others HAVE been doing our utmost to try to change things under some of the most hostile and toxic conditions in the state and even the nation, and I find value in sharing our thoughts so others can find use out of what they can of them. Kinda fun sitting’ here typing with a full load of coffee, and safe, too, right Toqueville? But our asses have been on the line for a long time notwistanding coffee. Where’s yours? Please do not accuse us of “whining”. Not polite.

  12. Fair enough. I was remiss on the ‘whining’ jab and I do respect the toxicity of the environment you operate it. With that said, the creep of the noxious weed of extremism is no longer limited to its source. While Ravalli County may have the worst of the outbreak the weed is taking root throughout the state. It appears to me that moderate R’s are, at present, the best that you can hope for. If we review the last session, the only R from your neck of the woods to support schools, hospitals, and women’s health issues was Connell. It would seem that these institutions ought to be enlisted in your fight.

    • Hey Bill,
      I, too, thought a history lesson from those of us in the trenches could be helpful for background.
      For the record, Pat Connell is a good Republican and has no support from the likes of me and Bill LaCroix ;

  13. One more time. Can’t help myself and no offense to anyone. But I think repeating cliches over and over again expecting it to be true the next time could qualify as the definition of insanity also. It drives me crazy anyways. There should be a statute of limitations for tired phrases that no one can quote the source of but whom everyone uses as a generic put-down. We human critters learn through repetition, notwithstanding our relatively big brain filled with relatively little sense. How about us wise guys (homo sapiens in latin) come up with another 16 word definition for insanity to use for the next 50 years or so.
    Or not.

  14. I suggest a new topic!

    Lack of leadership in Ravalli County
    ESP w commissioners

    LISTENING TO : Because of her allegations a broader investigation
    Remains necessary.


    What is necessary is termination.
    Even if it takes truth also reconciliation!
    Like some commissioners hired her to perform two job descriptions. She fulfilled their job description, root out and document alleged corruption!

    Private property, schools, towns et al.

    And 14 times could have but did not
    Vote to stop the BIG MESS @ TREASURER

    For now, to me, this looks like five generations of right wing + 7 years of
    Central party make-over // takeover
    Of some county departments, to
    Such a saturation level

    That the County Attorney
    Had been unable to counsel
    Commissioners w viable means to
    Terminate Stamey ( 1. Wrong hire procedure 2. Wrong candidate for appointment!! Misrepresent qualifications? CRITIQUE OF JR IMAN THAT STAMEY NOT QUALIFIED! ALAN THOMPSON: WOULD BE TERRIBLE MISTAKE! 3. then when appointed Grossly, systematically misrepresented concerns and cautions workers! Established herself as ? Worst county treasurer in Montana?
    Later found to be of default judgment!
    Then decreed to have violated fair campaign practices. And 4 MIL $
    Late to State Revenue. And now a million or so of un-recorded, un- banked, non-interest earning cash and checks! Et al.!!)

    Add in the evidently FALSE accusations made on the U Tube video,

    And indeed why give credence
    To her new accusations??

    bureaucracy ?

    So might think a reasonable person!

    HOWEVER when central party planning and employment become horizontally also vertically integrated ,

    Don’t be surprised if the County Attorney proposes more investigation,
    Under his province.

    Do remember how a majority of the commissioners repeatedly did not want to follow MCA 7-6-2113 a !

    And I do not know? Does someone?
    Did they express concern about being sued, should they move to terminate their illegal appointment of an obvious to a reasonable person, unqualified applicant?

    Could be the three commissioners were once again THREE ommissioners!!!

    Could be counsel suggested County
    Attorney directed outside audit of
    Easy way out??
    Wrong again, maybe 40K$+


    That’s posted to urge you all to consider talking to people about
    What we can do to express our reasonable solutions!

    ? A thousand people just ask her to resign?

    When leadership is sorely lacking,
    And a problem is HUGE
    And bureaucrats get in the way
    People got to have their say.

  15. I do find it interesting that Mike’s name links back to a site run by Norma. Is it Mike, or is it Norma in disguise? I guess we will never know. Either way, it is immaterial.

    As far as the subject, it is modis operandi for the Tea Party to back away from things when there is an appearance of illegality. It doesn’t surprise me that they are trying to back away from Stamey and her husband. I have a number of friends in the area that are saying that things might actually be worse than what is being reported in the Star.

  16. Hey Cowgirl, check it out: Soon as rational folks like you and I reminded citizens of the crazy loyalty oath/petition from January 2010, the link no longer works. Old County website vanishes and Commissioner Correspondence for only 2014 and 2013 is uploaded. New site implies older records will be loaded over time but what do you bet they NEVER get back to 2010? Here’s the new page…


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