Auditor finds Ravalli County treasurer hasn't fulfilled duties

2014-02-15T13:11:00Z 2014-06-24T14:00:06Z Auditor finds Ravalli County treasurer hasn't fulfilled dutiesBy PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic The Billings Gazette
February 15, 2014 1:11 pm  • 

HAMILTON – An independent auditing firm said Friday that it is clear the office of the Ravalli County treasurer has not fulfilled its duties.

Jim Woy of Anderson Zurmuehlen of Butte filed a status report with Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright on the firm’s findings following its first two weeks of investigation.

“At this point, it is apparent the duties of the Ravalli County treasurer were not properly executed and the state of the treasurer’s office was in disarray,” Woy’s report stated.

Also Friday, Fulbright announced that retired District Judge Nels Swandal would lead an independent investigation into allegations of criminal and civil misconduct made recently by interim treasurer Valerie Stamey against county commissioners and past and present county employees.

“We are hoping that his investigation will not take a long time,” Fulbright said. “We are hoping that he can get to the heart of the matter.”

Swandal recently retired after 18 years as district judge in Park and Sweetgrass counties. He served as Park County attorney for 12 years prior to that.

“He is a great individual to take on this task,” Fulbright said.

Fulbright said Swandal’s investigation will initially be directed toward allegations Stamey made at the last public hearing she attended on Jan. 21.

“Where his investigation will lead, I do not know,” Fulbright said. “He has the flexibility to consider whatever he might find.”

Stamey was placed on administrative leave with pay two days later, after refusing to attend a meeting with the county commission to explain a civil judgment filed against her in South Carolina.

Woy’s report said auditors determined that on the day Stamey was put on leave by the county commission, there was $952,372.78 found in checks and cash in the treasurer’s office that had not been deposited.

County employees deposited $779,697.37 between the time Stamey was put on leave and Jan. 31.

Woy’s report said the auditors found hundreds of checks that were not deposited and numerous piles of paperwork around the office that had been left incomplete when they began their audit.

The report said $171,197 in checks and $1,477 in currency was counted by the auditors on Feb. 4.

Most of those funds have now been receipted and deposited, Woy’s report said.

The auditors found additional problems in the office.

The report noted the mills for the open space bond were not properly updated. Woy said the county’s finance department is currently researching other mill levies to ensure that they were properly allocated.

All county bank reconciliations are expected to be complete by March 20.

“Again, the volume of work not performed in the treasurer’s office during the past several months is the reason for the additional time needed to complete the work,” the report stated.

Fulbright said the cost of both the audit and investigation could exceed the $50,000 the commission has already set aside.

“I fear that given the state of disarray of the treasurer’s office referred to by the auditing firm, we may exceed that number when all is said and done,” Fulbright said.

Stamey was appointed as interim treasurer on a 3-2 vote in September. During her four-month tenure, three of the office’s most experienced employees quit after citing a hostile work environment and the office fell months behind in providing disbursements and financial reports to local government entities.

Stamey has maintained that others in the office sabotaged her efforts to learn the job and she made allegations of corruption against past and present county officials and employees.

On Tuesday at 2 p.m., the commission is scheduled to make a decision on whether Stamey met her obligations while in office and consider the potential of a lawsuit asking that she pay $500 for every financial report that she failed to make.

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