FBI launches investigation into Ravalli County Treasurer's Office

2014-03-15T09:05:00Z 2014-07-05T20:21:56Z FBI launches investigation into Ravalli County Treasurer's OfficeBy PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic The Billings Gazette
March 15, 2014 9:05 am  • 

HAMILTON – One investigation into the troubled Ravalli County Treasurer’s Office has concluded and another one – this by the FBI – was confirmed to have started this week.

Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright said Friday that he expects to receive a report soon from retired District Judge Nels Swandal.

Swandal was hired by Fulbright in mid-February to lead an independent investigation into allegations of criminal and civil misconduct made by interim treasurer Valerie Stamey against the county commission, as well as past and present county employees.

At this point, Fulbright said he has no idea what the report will say.

“We were very careful in ensuring this was an independent investigation,” Fulbright said. “I served as his point of contact, but that’s all. He has not shared any details of his investigation with me.”

Likewise, Fulbright said he is also unsure where a Butte-based accounting firm is on its forensic audit of the county treasurer’s officer.

Since the accounting firm made its initial report a couple of weeks ago, Fulbright said he has not heard anything more.

Stamey sued the firm, Anderson Zurmuehlen, shortly after it released a status report that said it was apparent the duties of the Ravalli County Treasurer’s Office had not been properly executed and the office was in disarray.

Fulbright and Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman confirmed Friday that they have been told that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting its own investigation into Stamey’s allegations.

At the January meeting where Stamey accused a number of people of wrongdoing, she told the audience that she planned to ask the FBI to examine her allegations.

Ravalli County officials were unable to confirm until last week that a federal investigation was underway.

A phone call to an FBI public affairs officer in Salt Lake City was not returned to the newspaper Friday.

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Two days after Stamey made her allegations at a public hearing, the commission placed her on paid administrative leave after the treasurer refused to attend a meeting set aside specifically for her to explain a civil judgment filed in South Carolina.

Stamey was appointed interim treasurer by 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.

After the commission placed Stamey on paid leave, they brought in a retired Beaverhead County treasurer to assist in bringing the office up to date at a cost of about $20,000.

The commission recently agreed to file a lawsuit against Stamey seeking $29,000 in fines for missed financial reports that state law requires of all county treasurers.

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