Ravalli Co. commissioners ask for treasurer's immediate resignation


HAMILTON, Mont. - At the end of a four-hour public hearing, Ravalli County commissioners voted to ask for the immediate resignation of embattled Treasurer Valerie Stamey.

Commissioners scheduled a meeting on Tuesday to take up the issue of suspending her.

The board also authorized the county attorney to file an official misconduct lawsuit against her. That suit will be filed with another $29,000 suit already authorized against Stamey for late financial reports. The lawsuits could be filed as early as Monday.

The board began by reviewing results of an investigation into the treasurer's office, conducted by the accounting firm, Anderson and Zurmuehlen.

The hearing began with pictures of money in envelopes and in plain view, taken in the treasurer's office after Stamey was placed on paid administrative leave.

Anderson Zurmuehlen's business director for accounting and auditing, Jim Woy, told commissioners that under Stamey's tenure, there was more than $900,000 that had not been deposited.

"I believe that many of the problems that came to light," said Woy, "came to light under her leadership."

Woy compared the treasurer's office to a bank.

Referring to the pictures of the money, Woy said, "Before the doors close at the end of the day, and the employees go home, there is a strong emphasis to make sure assets are protected, and that they are locked up."

Woy said it appearsthere was an effort to put a deposit together for the bulk of that money, which may have been deposited the following day. But he said that still would have left well over $100,000 of "checks and currency that was scattered around the office."

Commissioners cited 26 instances where Stamey failed to perform her duties as interim treasurer.

Jeff Burrows moved to authorize the county attorney to file an official misconduct suit against her. Commissioners said the offer to allow her to resign immediately is a courtesy. Suzy Foss concurred. But she has always maintained that staff members did not help Stamey, nor, she said, did they show her proper respect.

"We're now looking at our fifth treasurer," said Foss. "I think that should signify there's a lot more to the problem."

County entities that were left with myriad financial messes weren't sympathetic.

"She did not have the experience," said the Bitterroot Irrigation District's business manager, Elaine Culletto, "and she ended up putting all of us at risk."

Stamey did not attend the hearing. Her absence, and her no shows in past hearings, were one of the 26 reasons she faces lawsuits and the loss of her job.

Stamey did issue a five-page statement to the press. Stamey wrote that she saw county workers commit felonies, and that existing problems within the treasurer's office left her set up to fail.

She also wrote that auditors recommended changes in the office that she had also asked be implemented, but got turned away by county commissioners.

She said the reason she didn't attend Friday's hearing was because she should have been given adequate notice to prepare to fight against the accusations, and a neutral party should hear her case, not the county commissioners.