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?
It goes without saying that suing an auditor for confirming that you weren’t doing your job is an extremely classy move. I’m not certain how libel law pertains to forensic accounting, but Stamey’s attorney, Robert Myers, seems to have confused reports made to a governing body with published statements. As he told Peter Christian of KGVO:
If you look at what was quoted in there, they made an assertation of fact without actually checking into it at all. That’s the part where they get into trouble, because that was reckless, and that’s all you need for New York Times to get past into malice is that you didn’t even bother to check it out. I also don’t think there are first amendment issues that you normally would have here. What you have is a professional individual not doing their duty and stating things about someone without even contacting them.
The word “assertation” seems to be a portmanteau of Myers’s own invention. His claim that Woy accused Stamey of dereliction of duty “without actually checking into it all” seems contradicted by Woy’s position as full-time investigator of Ravalli County’s books, but whatever. Contrary to popular opinion, the defense against libel is not contacting the person you are talking about. It’s saying things that are true, and so far we have no reason to believe that what Woy said isn’t true. I note, in his favor, that he produced his first status report on time.
In his remarks to KGVO, Myers promised not only “multiple little lawsuits against many, many people” but also “one final course of action that sort of explains things so well.” I presume he meant his client disappearing from Ravalli County under cover of night, but it’s hard to tell. I look forward to my own, personalized lawsuit.
Also expecting a lawsuit should be the Montana Cowgirl Blog. When a Ravalli County Tea Party official wrote in to explain that Stamey was not really a member of the Tea Party, the Cowgirl responded with a long, awesome accounting of just how many insane things Ravalli County Republicans have been doing, including but not limited to signing an oath in support of a militia authorized to conscript the county’s able-bodied males.
In summary, Ravalli County is an awesome place, and I feel fortunate to be close to but not actually inside it. Also, at what point will Stamey admit that she just did not do a good job as treasurer? The first five months of her term have ended with her office paralyzed and herself suspended. An independent auditor has confirmed what outward indications suggested. The Tea Party, normally safe haven for the bold and incompetent, has publicly disclaimed her. And yet she soldiers on.
She’s not soldiering in retreat, either. Even at this low ebb in her public life, Stamey is staying on offense, sinking more money into lawsuits, attacking not only her enemies on the council but even the accountants tasked with going over her books. It seems obvious to everyone that she is flailing in defeat, but she keeps sounding the bugle call that promises one big lawsuit to smash everyone else and vindicate herself.
Don’t worry—she’s still a candidate for treasurer in 2014, and she still owes the state commissioner of political practices a bookkeeping fine for her husband’s campaign in 2010. With any luck, we’ll have Valerie Stamey in our lives for another six months, maybe even a year. Then she will go to jail or Wyoming.