Ravalli County treasurer accuses others of corruption

2014-01-22T08:00:00Z 2014-02-03T19:03:15Z Ravalli County treasurer accuses others of corruption missoulian.com

HAMILTON – In a surprise bombshell Tuesday, embattled Ravalli County treasurer Valerie Stamey accused a county commissioner of corruption and other county officials of illegally selling tax liens in a statement delivered to a packed county commission meeting room.

Stamey walked out of the meeting immediately after reading the statement without further comment.

In the statement, Stamey said there has been “an orchestrated and vile campaign to destroy my character” in the newspapers “to protect corrupt commissioner J.R. Iman, who has been knowingly protected by (commission chair) Greg Chilcott.”

Immediately after the meeting, Iman said he had no idea what Stamey was talking about.

Commissioner Jeff Burrows said he was completely taken by surprise by her statement, which included allegations that he had ignored her pleas to do something about Iman.

“I had zero idea that that was coming,” Burrows said.

The meeting was on the agenda as the treasurer’s weekly update and Burrows said he expected to hear a status report on the office’s months-long backlog.

Stamey’s statement did not include any sort of office update.

Instead, she said her office was a “crime scene of past illegal activity.”

Stamey alleged that former county treasurer Joanne Johnson had removed files to hide the illegal sale of tax liens by her deputies, Linda Isaac and Mary Borden. The three are former employees who quit after Stamey was appointed to the position in September to fill out the term of Marie Keeton, who resigned due to personal issues.

All three women have complained that Stamey created a hostile workplace.

Since being appointed, Stamey has come under scrutiny because her office fell months behind in preparing the county’s financial reports.

Last week, the commission learned that Stamey faced a 2010 default judgment in South Carolina that claimed she cashed the same $18,149 check twice.

On Friday, Chilcott informed Stamey – in a hand-delivered letter – that the commission has set a meeting for 11 a.m. Thursday to consider her involvement in the South Carolina judgment. Chilcott also requested a written explanation from Stamey about the lawsuit, which was to be delivered to the commission by 4 p.m. Tuesday.

In a short letter to Chilcott on Tuesday afternoon, Stamey said she would neither provide the commission with a written response nor attend Thursday’s meeting on the matter.

She said legal counsel had advised her to take that course because Chilcott had not followed “proper notification procedures.”

She did not elaborate on what she believed to be the proper procedures.

***

Also Tuesday, the commission took an additional step by setting a 1 p.m. Thursday meeting to consider an investigation into the treasurer’s office.

Burrows said he envisioned an investigation by a third party, which may be the state attorney general’s office.

The decision to consider an investigation was made before Stamey made her allegations Tuesday morning that included the statement: “I have done nothing illegal, so get out of my private life.”

Stamey said she planned to ask the Federal Bureau of Investigation to examine her allegations of wrongdoing by Iman and others.

In her statement, Stamey said Iman threatened her when she first attempted to gain access to county accounts at First Interstate Bank and prohibited her from knowing the combination of the treasurer’s safe.

Stamey said her pleas for help from Chilcott and Burrows “fell on deaf ears.”

Stamey also said she asked the county’s chief financial officer, Klarryse Murphy, about the missing files and was told they had been removed for an audit.

Stamey said she would demand that Johnson and Murphy return missing files and “any other secreted away or removed files personally to me.”

Other demands in her statement included:

• The commission must pay for a security guard at her office to protect public records. If the commission refuses, she said she’ll seek a court order.

• All signatories but her own must be removed from the treasurer’s account. It that didn’t happen, Stamey said she would change banks.

• She wants to suspend employee Bonnie Dugan with pay, “as her continued presence in the office will contaminate the necessary investigations.” Stamey said Dugan intimidated an employee attempting to catalogue the missing files.

• Stamey said she will have no further electronic communication with other county departments. All future correspondence must be non-electronic writing directly addressed to Stamey.

• She said she will not allow any further contact between commissioners and her department’s employees during work hours.

“I will establish office protocols in accordance with Montana state law for the proper disbursement and keeping of all public funds,” Stamey said. “Montana law has been held in contempt by this commission and by prior county treasurers. This will end today.”

Stamey told the commission she fears for her personal safety and has made arrangements for personal security.

Stamey concluded by thanking commissioners Suzy Foss and Ron Stoltz for their support.

As she left the room, Stamey refused to provide a copy of her statement to the commissioners’ clerk. Copies of the statement were later handed out by former county planning board chair Jan Wisniewski.

***

After Stamey’s statement, several people in the audience asked the commission to consider a forensic audit for both the time period that Stamey had referred to and for the months since she took over the office.

Former County Commissioner Kathleen Driscoll said she was disappointed that Stamey had not provided an update on what’s occurring in her office.

She called Stamey’s statement “a wonderful example of deflection. … I had hoped to hear what she’s been doing rather than hearing her pull everyone else into the swamp with her.”

Lavonne Miller, former treasurer Joanne Johnson’s sister, said all three women mentioned by Stamey were devoted employees and had no reason to do what Stamey alleged.

“Whatever Val is trying to pull out of the slums is not true,” she said.

Dan Floyd said he found it unsettling that three key people in the treasurer’s office quit around the same time. He urged the commission to consider the allegations and bring in outside financial experts to take a look.

Chris Hockman said he’s closely studied the past four annual audits on the county’s books by a Missoula firm and he’s not seen any evidence of wrongdoing.

“That allays my fears,” he said.

On her way to lunch after the meeting concluded, county CFO Murphy stopped long enough to read Stamey’s statement and refute claims about her office.

“She never asked me about an audit or these files,” Murphy said. “I didn’t secret anything away. I don’t have access to the treasurer’s drive.”

Murphy said her files have always been available at any time to any of the commissioners.

“I’m an open book,” she said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Stamey sent an email to most newspapers in the state, as well as major papers in Seattle, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., that contained a copy of her statement.

“Valarie (sic) Stamey has been under constant character assault since entering office meant to dissuade her from staying in office and now we know why,” the email read.

Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at 363-3300 or at pbackus@ravallirepublic.com.

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(32) Comments

  1. raptor53
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    raptor53 - January 26, 2014 9:21 am
    yeah, for the voters !
  2. Leadfoot
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    Leadfoot - January 23, 2014 5:28 pm
    Time will tell which side is the crook. My prediction is that the first one to drop the charges will be the guilty one. If that paperwork Re: tax liens is missing through the intervention of some commissioners, the Treasurer is correct. The individuals who quit after the Treasurer's investigation started would be implicated by the most naivete of you. Also strange is why wouldn't she be given the combination to the safe in her own office? Bravado on the part of the Commissioners rose when she obtained a guard to protect the safe and clandestine removal of some of it's contents. This scenario seems more plausible than your fiction above.
  3. Objective observer
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    Objective observer - January 23, 2014 7:17 am
    Bittersweet. Starney was scheduled to give an update on the situation in the treasurer's office. Instead of providing that update WHICH IS HER JOB she hurls wild accusations in completely different directions hoping to throw people off of her trail. No one is fooled by this obvious diversion tactic but you.
  4. Objective observer
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    Objective observer - January 23, 2014 3:58 am
    Since True American's comment to Miss Perfect on another thread was so on target, it bears repeating here. Couldn't have said it better myself:
    You tea-party types are incredibly boring. Every time you insert your worn rhetoric ins such an irrelevant manner you insult the intelligence of anyone who hears you. It is only in your (tea party) mass indoctrinated imagination that our current president displays these personality traits. This is a common, and transparent, strategy used by the ignorant and fearful in order to discredit those who are believed to present some sort of threat, in the case of the tea party, a BLACK president. Maybe you should not be too stupid to see that this mess is a result of tea party cronyism in Ravalli County, and has nothing to do with the personality of the DEMOCRATIC President of the United States before you post a comment here. That's what people with a brain do.
  5. Bittersweet
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    Bittersweet - January 23, 2014 1:22 am
    I see that.
  6. Objective observer
    Report Abuse
    Objective observer - January 22, 2014 3:40 pm
    Since True American's comment to Miss Perfect on another thread was so on target, it bears repeating here. Couldn't have said it better myself:
    You tea-party types are incredibly boring. Every time you insert your worn rhetoric ins such an irrelevant manner you insult the intelligence of anyone who hears you. It is only in your (tea party) mass indoctrinated imagination that our current president displays these personality traits. This is a common, and transparent, strategy used by the ignorant and fearful in order to discredit those who are believed to present some sort of threat, in the case of the tea party, a BLACK president. Maybe you should not be too stupid to see that this mess is a result of tea party cronyism in Ravalli County, and has nothing to do with the personality of the DEMOCRATIC President of the United States before you post a comment here. That's what people with a brain do.
  7. Davy Crockett
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    Davy Crockett - January 22, 2014 2:06 pm
    Cut to the chase. There needs to be a full scale investigation of all parties. Forget the partisanship rhetoric. I would go so far as to say all western Montana counties need some outside scrutiny. Lake and Sanders ought to top that list.
  8. Aberdeen
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    Aberdeen - January 22, 2014 1:07 pm
    Missoula has the Children's Theater, Ravalli County has "the Theater of the Absurd".
  9. Miss Perfect
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    Miss Perfect - January 22, 2014 12:15 pm
    nope.....just the average Obama stooge.......the same ilk that to this day don't believe there was ever a "Blue dress."
  10. Miss Perfect
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    Miss Perfect - January 22, 2014 12:14 pm
    How about a "C" vote (Conservative)?
  11. Miss Perfect
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    Miss Perfect - January 22, 2014 12:13 pm
    It was white, racist, male TeaParty republicans that smeared my reputation.......um.....and they shut down the government! There are many white men........who frankly, just don't like me or the idea of a female Treasurer.

    Why not? Use the 'Obama" playbook, the Boss does it all the time!
  12. Bob
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    Bob - January 22, 2014 11:59 am
    Couldnt disagree more! I think this was want Suzy wanted to see happen. Tea party is bent on bringing government down from the inside to "prove" it doesnt work. Thats their dirty little secret. Not just less government. No government.
  13. Gomez
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    Gomez - January 22, 2014 10:23 am
    I particularly like this line;

    "Stamey concluded by thanking commissioners Suzy Foss and Ron Stoltz for their support."

    : ) I bet right about now they'd like to crawl under a rock. : )
  14. ds
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    ds - January 22, 2014 10:16 am
    "I am not a crook."
  15. DonaldM
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    DonaldM - January 22, 2014 10:04 am
    I greee with the need for a Forensic Accountant from outside the County. I would also recomment a Forensic Psychiatrist.
  16. DonaldM
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    DonaldM - January 22, 2014 10:02 am
    I agree with the need for an investigation. I trust the County Sheriff, but not the County Attorney. It needs to be done by someone from the State. I trust the State Attorney General, but a special, non-partisan, well reputed attorney from outside of Western Montana, should be called in.
  17. msonelson
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    msonelson - January 22, 2014 9:57 am
    A vote "R" or a vote "D" is a wasted vote!
  18. MT_Mama
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    MT_Mama - January 22, 2014 9:38 am
    Completely agree. She needs to be removed immediately before further damage is done. Who knows where a lot of the money and paperwork are by now. This is the number one red flag: Stamey's demand that "All signatories but her own must be removed from the treasurer’s account." Uh huh. So she wants no oversight whatsoever. If the RC Commissioners have any sense (doubtful, with Foss on board), they will freeze all accounts now, remove Stamey, forcibly if necessary, and have a complete audit done of both the county's accounts and Stamey's personal ones.
  19. growup
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    growup - January 22, 2014 9:02 am
    I agree, it's popcorn time. Unfortunately, it will be an expensive showing for the taxpayers, as neither side is likely to go down quietly or quickly. A third-party audit, done quickly and efficiently will be best.
  20. Sukey
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    Sukey - January 22, 2014 8:42 am
    Perhaps that's why she was hired, the Commissioners were looking for someone who would play along. They were wrong. This isn't the only county, either.
  21. smarterthanwalter
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    smarterthanwalter - January 22, 2014 8:34 am
    I think anyone with half a brain knows that Ravalli County voters got what they deserved. Anyone with an "R" next to their name on the ballot got voted in no matter how incompetent or out of touch with reality. The voters down there need to start paying attention to who the candidate is rather than their political affiliation. I'm sure there were some pretty good candidates with "D"s next to their names. When you have a bunch of people in charge with little ability and no commonsense, it's no surprise that a delusional nut is appointed to be the county's treasurer. Like most tea party efforts, another implosion is about to happen. I agree with Gomez, popcorn is in order. Please pass the butter.
  22. raptor53
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    raptor53 - January 22, 2014 7:52 am
    three rings but where is the circus sidehow ? oh yeah, its the county attorney's office and RCSO ! that whole block is a cesspool of good old boy mentality. Last time I drove by a kid wearing suspenders was sitting on the steps playing a banjo. Deliver-us!
  23. Square
    Report Abuse
    Square - January 22, 2014 6:23 am
    These accusations seem to be 100% defensive and let's change the subject of perfomrance to some one is corrupt!

    Do a quick investigation by the Sheriff or County Attorney, see if there is anything to these allegations, once it is determined there is none, remove the Treasurer from office immediately!

    But, do it with all haste!!!!
  24. Objective observer
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    Objective observer - January 22, 2014 5:16 am
    Some people are easily duped.
  25. Still Here
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    Still Here - January 21, 2014 10:14 pm
    Lots of accusation, Time for a full outside audit. I wonder why the three commisioners that hired Valerie were so quiet. MMMMM
  26. NoturAverageBear
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    NoturAverageBear - January 21, 2014 10:03 pm
    Tea Puppets corrupt?!?!?

    Demented sense of reality most definitely, but corrupt?

    No, not the Tea Puppets, they can't be corrupt and create their very own facts and reality too!

    Although, with a little creative imagination/manipulation of facts, this corruption thingy could be all Obama's fault in the end! ;)

    Bet that is what happened....some how Obama came to Ravalli County to sabotage the county commissioners and make them look bad in an effort to turn the whole county socialist. OMG, run for the hills!
  27. Gomez
    Report Abuse
    Gomez - January 21, 2014 9:58 pm
    Someone get the popcorn, this is gonna be good....
  28. concerned4
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    concerned4 - January 21, 2014 8:01 pm
    It's official. The wheels are off the bus.
  29. trollolol
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    trollolol - January 21, 2014 6:06 pm
    I guess that she has all the proof of her allegations readily available to back up her claims in the form of reconciled statements. Oh, wait.
    All kidding aside, this woman is clearly delusional. I sincerely hope she's immediately removed as a signatory from any bank, and a full audit is performed immediately. A judgement of any kind is public, and since she is in a fiduciary position, a request for details is not out of any bounds.
  30. Bittersweet
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    Bittersweet - January 21, 2014 5:44 pm
    Time will tell.
  31. Bittersweet
    Report Abuse
    Bittersweet - January 21, 2014 4:43 pm
    Not a surprise bombshell at all. Is Stamey a saint? Likely not. Is she the only one who should have a finger pointed at them? I really don't think it ends with the current commissioners either.
  32. Objective observer
    Report Abuse
    Objective observer - January 21, 2014 4:37 pm
    In other words "SQUIRREL!!!"
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