Ravalli County seeks sanctions against treasurer for alleged overreach

2014-05-30T09:44:00Z 2014-07-05T20:21:54Z Ravalli County seeks sanctions against treasurer for alleged overreachBy PERRY BACKUS Missoulian The Billings Gazette
May 30, 2014 9:44 am  • 

HAMILTON — Ravalli County has asked the court to impose sanctions on the county’s interim treasurer, Valerie Stamey, for an alleged overreach and misuse of a subpoena.

Stamey filed the 11-page subpoena in April, commanding the county to produce a long list of documents as part of a defamation lawsuit she had filed against the accounting firm performing an audit on the treasurer’s office.

That list included job descriptions of 23 county employees, 10 contracts between various departments, as well as every treasurer’s report, periodic county department reports, every receipt issued by the treasurer and all warrants, audit reports and account settlements issued since 1995.

Stamey sued auditor James Woy and the firm Anderson Zurmuehlen in February following a preliminary report from the firm that stated: “It is apparent the duties of the Ravalli County Treasurer were not properly executed.”

Necessary information

Stamey’s lawsuit claimed she needed the information requested in the subpoena to show that the county treasurer’s office had a history of troubles that made it impossible for her to do the job.

Stamey’s attorney, Robert Myers, wrote that the subpoena’s objective was to show “that Ravalli County has removed almost all of those checks and balances and in essence prohibited the necessary transparency and oversight to protect the money of the people of Ravalli County.”

“The issues with Ravalli County finances didn’t start in the middle of September 2013 when Valerie was appointed to office,” Myers wrote in his response to a motion to quash the subpoena. “There are clear indications that the issues with Ravalli County stretch back much further, with many of the same persons involved in the current issues being present in 1999 or before.”

In the county’s reply filed this week, Deputy County Attorney Howard Recht said Stamey’s request was an improper use of a discovery subpoena and that county taxpayers would have to pick up the bill for gathering thousands of pages of documents for review in a case in which the county isn’t even named.

Recht said the accounting firm Stamey filed against has no control over the county’s financial checks and balances, and that wasn’t the issue of her defamation lawsuit in the first place.

Great lengths

While Stamey went to great lengths to denigrate past treasurers and the county’s handling of funds in general in court filings, Recht said she also observed the minimum duties of a treasurer are statutory.

Recht said her attempt then to say that she failed in her duties because there are no policies in place is “patently illogical. It is, therefore, no help to her cause to try and transfer to others the blame for the failures of the treasurer’s office that occurred while she was in office.”

Recht asked the court to impose sanctions required under state law for issuing a subpoena that would impose an undue burden or expense. Those sanctions could include lost earnings and reasonable attorney fees.

The law firm representing Anderson Zurmuehlen also asked the court for a summary judgment in the lawsuit earlier this month.

“The pleadings, affidavits and documents in the record establish that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law,” the motion read.

Stamey was appointed as interim treasurer last September by a 3-2 vote of the commission to fill the term of a former treasurer who left for personal reasons.

After her appointment, the treasurer’s office fell months behind in its workload after three of the office’s most experienced employees left, citing a hostile workplace.

Stamey was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 23 after she failed to attend a meeting set to offer her the opportunity to explain a South Carolina civil judgment that alleged she cashed an $18,149 check twice.

The county continues to pay her salary and benefits of about $1,000 a week.

In February, the commission voted unanimously to sue Stamey for refusing or neglecting to file 58 financial reports or settlements that state law requires of all county commissioners.

That lawsuit has not yet been filed.

Stamey is one of three Republican candidates on the primary ballot for the treasurer’s post.

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