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 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.”
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.
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 <email@example.com>
Date: January 31, 2014 at 8:49:29 AM MST
Subject: Open letter from Commissioner Foss to Senator Fielder
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,
Ravalli County Commissioner
215 So. 4th Street, Suite A
Hamilton, MT 59840
Phone: 406-375-6510 Office