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!

Friday links! James Comey, Historical Figure edition

In the year 2016, mild-mannered James Comey is working in the FBI library when he is bitten by a radioactive history book. From that moment on, the 56 year-old boy has the power to change history—but it is a power he cannot control. All he gets is a feeling of mild nausea when it’s about to happen. Doomed to shape history but never on purpose, he is: James Comey, Historical Figure. Today is: Friday. Won’t you chronicle our hero’s exploits with me?

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Cultural appropriation? Day of the Dead parade ignores Mictecacihuatl

Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of death, goes totally unrepresented in Missoula's Day of the Dead parade.

Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of death (artist’s rendering)

Next week, Missoulians will put on skeleton costumes and parade down Higgins Avenue in one of this town’s oddest observances: the Day of the Dead parade. They’ve been doing it for 24 years, despite the fact that approximately 0.0% of the local population is Mexican. We love parades, though. This one concludes the Zootown Arts Community Center’s monthlong Festival of the Dead, which the ZACC describes as an “all-inclusive multicultural event that honors life and death through community involvement in the arts.”

Again, this all-inclusive multicultural event mostly includes white people. Is it therefore not a little problematic? Might the good people of Missoula not be appropriating someone else’s culture by celebrating this holiday? I agree Missoula’s Day of the Dead festivities stray unconscionably from cultural tradition. They make no mention of Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of death. In fact, when it comes to appropriating the culture behind the Day of the Dead, the only people worse than Missoulians are Mexicans.

You can read all about in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, in which we chart the fine line between resisting cultural appropriation and enforcing cultural segregation. Centuries from now, when ape-robot cyborgs are marching through the ruins of Washington-Grizzly Stadium in skeleton costumes, people who are a quarter Missoulian will lambast them for stealing our culture. Fortunately, I will be dead. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!


Jack Chick: Artist, berserk, dead

A panel from the Chick tract "Big Daddy," which warns against evolution

A panel from the Chick tract “Big Daddy”

Like a lot of people, Jack Chick had a hard time drawing hands. It’s good that thing on the end of the professor’s sleeve has fingers, or we might not recognize it. But look at his pear-shaped body, his smiling overbite, his stooped mien. He is very much the natural man, trapped in a box—heck, let’s call it cage—made from the rigid lines of the chalkboard, the corner, the portrait, the podium, even the frame itself. Here is a person caught by a fixed idea, a simian out of place in the world of humans. Rembrandt it ain’t, but this work of comic art is at least as good as something you’d find in Mad magazine. And it’s all the vision of one person. The panel above is from a Chick tract, those little black-and-white pamphlets on evangelical themes you have probably found on the bus or at the fair. The man behind them, Jack Chick, died in his sleep Sunday night. I do not admire his beliefs, but I envy his life.

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Friday links! Half-remembered pasts edition

Parker Posey in Kicking And Screaming

Parker Posey in Kicking And Screaming

First of all, sorry for scaring everybody yesterday. I’m still vertiginous, and the Missoula health care system is still unwilling to care for my health on shorter notice than it takes to quit a job at Taco Bell, but I have not given up on life. One reason I will not just sicken and die is that I live in a tower of iron will. Remember the six months in 2007 when I broke my hand, dislocated my shoulder and tore my transverse abdominus? This is not as bad as that, although I’m pretty sure music was better then. It’s hard to remember, because drugs were better, too. Today is Friday, and I suspect that everything was easier in the past, but I can’t prove it. Won’t you compare epochs with me?

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