Valerie Stamey returns, clothed in righteous fire

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!

Or how about a fucking scientist?

Robert F Kennedy, Jr. was recently tapped to lead a commission on vaccine safety.

Good news, everybody: President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly asked Robert F. Kennedy, Jr to chair a federal commission on “vaccine safety and scientific integrity.” In addition to being one of the original Robert F. Kennedy’s 11 children, RFK Jr. is an activist who believes vaccines cause autism—an idea that has been roundly rejected by scientists and doctors, found to have no merit in dozens of experimental trials, and traced to one article published in Lancet 20 years ago and subsequently retracted. But what do scientists know? How many of them are Kennedys? Fucking none, that’s how many—not one Kennedy has become a scientist, because science sucks. It’s not because they couldn’t do it. Why, RFK Jr. himself went to Harvard, even after he flunked out of Milbrook. He’s just naturally right about things, the same way he is naturally rich: by being a Kennedy. I quote the Washington Post:

“President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies, and he has questions about it,” Kennedy said. “His opinion doesn’t matter, but the science does matter, and we ought to be reading the science, and we ought to be debating the science.”

Yeah, when are people going to start reading and debating science? We’ve left the science behind vaccines to doctors and scientists for too long. It’s time to get some famous rich people in there to straighten this out and decide whether polio should come back.

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Historic Preservation Commission saves Missoula Mercantile for future trouble

The Missoula Mercantile in 2019 (developer's conception)

The Missoula Mercantile in 2019 (artist’s conception)

Good news, everyone: after three months, two marathon meetings, one missed quorum and a public spat with the city attorney, the Historic Preservation Commission has voted to deny HomeBase Montana’s application for a permit to destroy the Missoula Mercantile building. The Merc is saved! At least until the next city council meeting—they’re the ones tasked with hearing HomeBase’s appeal. They probably won’t decide anytime soon, though. There’s no system in place for the city to overturn or, for that matter, become bound by the commission’s decision. This issue—where HPC votes to preserve a building that developers and certain city officials really want to destroy—just hasn’t come up before.

But at least the Merc is safe, for now. Those of us who would not like to see it knocked down and replaced with a Marriott shouldn’t celebrate just yet, though, because we haven’t held up our end of the bargain. If we want to save the Merc, we have to do something with it. Keeping a $5 million building vacant and gutted in the middle of downtown while we turn away developer after developer is not a cool option. The HPC’s decision feels provisional because the commission wrecked its credibility rendering it. But it also feels that way because the Merc won’t be saved until we find some productive use for it. You can read all about this problem in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

Friday links! Our shared inheritance edition

A reeve directs serfs on a feudal demesne, circa 1310.

A reeve directs serfs on a feudal demesne, circa 1310.

Much of my week has centered on a lawsuit. It’s not a trial; it’s a binding arbitration, and I am neither the plaintiff nor the defendant. But I appeared as a witness, with all the logistical wrangling that entails. In the process, I developed a sense of just how tenaciously we come to contest anything we contest formally. Once we hold an advantage—be it a parcel of money, a position in a market, or an inherited privilege—we become loath to share it with anyone, even in situations where sharing would seem completely reasonable if lawyers weren’t present. Today is Friday, and we cling to our inheritances fiercely when someone tries to take them from us. Won’t you put property ahead of propriety with me?

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Why Nick Diaz’s suspension is a big deal

Nick Diaz submits Takanori Gomi via gogoplata in 2007. His win would be overturned following a failed drug test.

Nick Diaz submits Takanori Gomi via gogoplata in 2007. His win would be overturned following a failed drug test.

Yesterday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Nick Diaz for five years and fined him $150,000 for failing a drug test after his January bout against Anderson Silva. Diaz tested positive for marijuana metabolites. His opponent tested positive for anabolic steroids and was suspended one year. The asymmetry between these punishments is not as clear as it may seem: Diaz has tested positive for marijuana twice before, in 2007 and 2012. That might be because he has a medical card in California, where he lives, but whatever the reason, Diaz smokes a lot of weed. As of yesterday afternoon, that seems to be the central problem in his life.

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