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!