It's been more than four months since Ravalli County Treasurer Valerie Stamey sat in front of commissioners and rattled off a list of criminal allegations against the very people seeking answers as to why her office was in such disarray. The county has since spent thousands of dollars investigating her claims, none of which were verified in a final report from retired District Court Judge Nels Swandal last month.
Meanwhile, Stamey remains on paid administrative leave, barred from her office but still receiving a regular check from Ravalli County. According to human resources director Robert Jenni, Stamey has been paid a total of $14,020.83 in wages and benefits since the commission voted to place her on leave Jan. 23.
Public outrage continues to trickle in to the county commission, with several citizens questioning via phone and email in recent weeks why Stamey is being kept on the payroll. It's a fair question. That infamous Jan. 21 meeting was meant to offer officials and the public an update on how the treasurer's office was catching up on months of backlogged tax receipts and disbursements. Instead, Stamey went on the offensive with a series of wild and, as Swandal's report now indicates, unsubstantiated accusations.
But Swandal cast a wider net of culpability in April than anyone prior. He acknowledged that Stamey—who eventually declined to be interviewed for his investigation—should have put forth more effort in learning her duties. However, he added that the office was already suffering from dissatisfaction and conflict. "It is my opinion that if the personnel in the treasurer's office had acted as a team with the goal of serving the tax-paying public and getting the job done," Swandal wrote, "Ravalli County would not have faced the problems it did after Mrs. Stamey's selection."
The commission did discuss Stamey's present status last month but, on the advice of Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright, opted to keep her on paid leave. That expense is just the tip of the iceberg. The county is spending significantly more—upwards of $50,000 so far—on a financial audit of the treasurer's office.
All this adds up to what seems like an obvious electoral defeat in the offing. Stamey is still on the ballot to retain her seat against two challengers in the upcoming Republican primary. After such a contentious and costly clustermess, it's safe to say name recognition isn't exactly on her side.