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! All your old favorites edition

One fun thing about the collapse of western civilization is that all our old favorites are coming back. New Robocop movie? Hell yeah! Return of rompers and bomber jackets? Yes please. Sudden ubiquity of retro celebrities such as Kardashians and Donald Trump? Um…okay, I guess. Crass materialism that gives way to old-time bigotry and increasingly anti-democratic struggle for control of the security state? Wait, stop—that’s too retro for me. Oh, you set everything in motion decades ago, and now we must numbly watch it all play out as the events of the path frog-march us into a terrifying future? Well, okay, since you worked on it. Today is Friday, and it’s hard to be nostalgic for a past that won’t leave. Won’t you greet the old favorites with me?

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Lawsuit signals endgame for Ravalli treasurer

Suspended Ravalli County treasurer Valerie Stamey, now the object of a lawsuit

Suspended Ravalli County treasurer Valerie Stamey, now the object of a lawsuit

It seems the litigator has become the litigated: the Ravalli County Commission has sued embattled suspended hilarious treasurer Valerie Stamey for $29,000, citing 58 instances of neglected duties at $500 a pop. This news follows last Friday’s meeting, in which commissioners offered Stamey the chance to resign rather than be suspended without pay. Stamey did not attend that meeting, saying it would violate her right to due process. At the same event, independent auditor Jim Woy said “there is absolutely no doubt” Stamey failed to perform the duties of her office. You may remember Woy from Stamey’s plan to sue him for libel, which her attorney promised would be the “first of many” lawsuits. As of press time, the legal counterassault seems to have stalled.

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Three fun stories from yesterday’s primaries

Repawblican candidate Bingo won his primary and will face Skittles, incumbent Democat, in the fall.

Repawblican Bingo won a contentious primary and will face Skittles, incumbent Democat, in the fall.

Maybe I’m biased, but Montana politics seem to produce a better story-to-population ratio than any local politics I have seen. Case in point: Missoula and Ravalli counties held their primary elections yesterday, and they produced not one, nor two, but three interesting stories—four if you count the sheriff’s race. TJ McDermott beat his two Democratic opponents to become the Missoula County Sheriff—there are no Republican candidates in the general—shortly after county Democrats amended their bylaws to endorse him, and also after he sued the Sheriff’s Department. That’s not even the best story from yesterday, though.

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A screen cap from Friday's Missoulian

A screen cap from Friday’s Missoulian

The best-case scenario in the Ravalli County treasury fiasco got a little more likely over the weekend. Part One—Valerie Stamey turns out to have done almost no work at all between her appointment in September and her suspension in February—is already in place. That’s more fun than the news consuming public reasonably could have asked for. But dare we hope for Part Two? I am referring, of course, to the unlikely but entertaining possibility that county commissioners really have been illegally selling tax liens, as Stamey alleges. Probably they haven’t. But now the FBI is involved, so oh man—if they have.

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