Former Ravalli County Treasurer and missing person Valerie Stamey
It’s been over a year since the last time we heard from Valerie Stamey. Last May, we got the headline Former County Treasurer Found and Served, which pretty much tells you what you need to know about my favorite story in Montana politics. Stamey was appointed treasurer on a 3-2 vote by Ravalli County commissioners in 2013. She served about eight months before she was suspended in June 2014. During her tenure, the office filed no monthly reports and the fire department ran out of money. After she left, investigators found $780,000 in undeposited checks lying around her office. The county estimates it spent around six figures putting the office of the treasurer back in order after she left. Stamey was found guilty of official misconduct and fined in absentia, but by that time, she was gone. Her husband told reporters she was in a different state, but he wouldn’t say which. Process servers who hoped to find her at the auction of her home were disappointed.
Now she’s back, though, and more Stamey than ever. Last week, her attorney announced that she was suing the county and about a dozen of its employees for $20.2 million—that’s $240,000 for “lost economic opportunities” and $20 million in punitive damages. Among those to be punished are the county attorney, the former treasurer, three former deputy treasurers, the county clerk and the owners of the Bitterroot Star newspaper, all of whom are named as defendants in the suit. Their co-defedants include Greg Chilcott, J.R. Iman, Jeff Burrows, Chris Hoffman and Suzy Foss—the five members of the Ravalli County Commission that made her treasurer in the first place.
Stamey’s lawsuit claims that county commissioners conspired with treasury employees and the newspaper to “create the false impression that she was incompetent.” I’m no lawyer, but I think she’d have a better shot if she didn’t put the word “false” in there. This conspiracy does explain why the county commission appointed a treasurer who had no experience in managerial accounting, a history of bad debts, and a FUFI judgment against her. They needed a patsy. The only other explanation is that they made the worst hiring decision in Ravalli County history, exhibiting astonishingly poor judgment in the process. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!
Absconded treasurer Valerie Stamey
When last we spoke of Valerie Stamey, she had finally been located in South Carolina, the very state whose civil judgments she escaped to come to Montana. If you’re going to flee a second lawsuit, be careful to choose a third location instead of returning to the site of your original fraud. By committing this rookie mistake, Stamey has allowed our neighbors in Ravalli County to at last serve her with their lawsuit for neglecting her duties as treasurer. Unfortunately, because Ravalli County is in Montana and Stamey is in South Carolina, our district courts have no jurisdiction. Stamey schooled county attorney Bill Fullbright on this point of law in a letter she cc’ed to the Ravalli Republic. I quote their report:
In the letter to Fulbright, the former treasurer called the summons “constitutionally invalid” and said the district court did not have jurisdiction over her because she now lives out of state.
“This letter serves notice to you that if you continue in this action against me, I will seek legal remedies,” Stamey’s letter read. “I have made you aware of the flaw in your continuing to waste tax dollars to try and illegally serve me.”
Stamey has not responded to the summons otherwise. Needless to say, you still have to respond to a lawsuit even if you leave the state where it was filed. Any lawyer will tell you that, although conservative patriots may disagree. Isn’t it strange how the same lay readings of the constitution that endeared Stamey to a certain faction of Ravalli Republicans also justify her serial dodging of lawsuits? No consequence that befalls this lady is constitutional. She’s a scamp, and I’d love to write about her all day, but I’ve got to help Lagan unload windows at his house. Windows are pretty light, right? They’re mostly sky. We’ll be back Monday with hopefully unsevered tendons in our hands.
Suspended Ravalli County treasurer Valerie Stamey
Last Friday, independent auditor James Woy filed a status report with Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright on the first two weeks of his investigation into the county treasurer’s office as Valerie Stamey left it. Quote:
At this point, it is apparent the duties of the Ravalli County treasurer were not properly executed and the state of the treasurer’s office was in disarray.
What’s that word for when something happens that you expected all along? I can’t think of it right now, because I’m too busy trying to think of a word that describes Stamey’s announcement, made yesterday through her attorney, that she is suing Woy for libel. You didn’t think she was going to roll over, did you?
This photo by Alex Sakariassen is quickly becoming the most-used image in Combat! history.
The sum news disseminators of western Montana are so close to producing one Ravalli County treasury item per day. This morning, we hear from KGVO that embattled treasurer Valerie Stamey claims no one has contacted her about the audit and investigation of her office. It’s possible that’s because she’s the primary object of that investigation. It’s possible that most government officials would not comment on an ongoing investigation, particularly not to imply that it is bullshit. But Stamey is not most government officials. My column today in the Missoula Independent tries to come up with a unifying theory of Stamey, based on her bizarre ad lib while leading Bitterroot Republicans in the Lord’s Prayer. Surely, someone who adds a joke to a prayer must be a particular kind of person, but what? “Sociopath” is too easy. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.
A turn-of-the century cartoon published by the American Federation of Labor
The big historical misconception of the Gilded Age is that it was an age of great wealth, when really it was an age of widespread poverty. Between 1870 and 1900, growing industrialization and the sudden interconnection of markets by rail made a small number of American industrialists insanely rich. The Gilded Age produced the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Carnegie fortunes. It also impoverished millions of ordinary Americans, who went from self-employment as small farmers and independent craftsmen to working in mills and on railroads—often for sprawling trusts, usually with little control over hours or conditions, and invariably for low wages in an economy driven by industrial-strength inflation. The Gilded Age made a few people rich at the expense of everyone else. It is named for the 1873 novel by Mark Twain, and the whole point of “gilded” is that the gold only covered the surface. Beneath it lay something base that the wealthy wanted to cover up. Anyway, I don’t know why I’m thinking about this in the 21st century, during our second industrial revolution. I guess I’m just savoring the fact that nothing like that could happen now. Today is Friday, and our age remains totally un-gilded. Won’t you insist that everything is fine with me?