Ravalli Co. Commissioners place treasurer on administrative leave


HAMILTON, Mont. - Ravalli County commissioners talked legal issues and heard public testimony on Valerie Stamey's status for close to three hours Thursday.

The woman who has attracted such scrutiny and debate wasn't there to see the overflow crowd.

There weren't enough chairs to seat everybody. The trouble in the treasurer's office has rippled through an entire community.

"The business of the county is grinding to a halt," said Sheriff Chris Hoffman. "My office cannot do its work because the treasurer isn't doing hers."

"It is unfortunate," said Corvallis School Business Manager Vannesa Bargfrede, "that I cannot track my cash flow, or tell my board accurate reports."

Stevensville Mayor Gene Mim Mack urged commissioners to "suspend this person with or without pay."

But commissioners heard another side too.

"What's to say that more files will not come up missing," said Theresa Manzella. "How will we preserve what she refers to as a crime scene?"

Michelle Pope wants to see a forensic audit of the entire office.

"There's not even a camera on our vault," said Pope.

All five commissioners voted to place Stamey on leave with pay. That's a much different vote than four months ago, when Ron Stoltz, Suzy Foss and Jeff Burrows voted to appoint her to the post.

J.R. Iman and Greg Chilcott went against the majority. Stamey's attorney asked both men to recuse themselves.

Stamey has accused Iman of corruption, with allegations Chilcott protected him. Both commissioners refused.

"The accusations are wholly untrue," said Iman.

Some question whether Stamey should be paid while on leave.

Commissioners asked Hoffman to notify Stamey that she was on administrative leave. The sheriff went to her office, but she had already gone for the day.

Commissioners told First Interstate Bank in Hamilton to remove Stamey from access to Ravalli County's iCorp account immediately.

They wrote in a letter to First Interstate's Scott Henderson, that time is of the essence, and to please remove her from all signatory authority on all Ravalli County bank accounts immediately.