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Commissioners want answers over treasurer's alleged financial improprieties

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Scott Zoltan, KECI Reporter, szoltan@keci.com
Published On: Jan 17 2014 09:57:10 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 22 2014 11:14:32 AM MST
HAMILTON, Mont. -

Ravalli County commissioners want answers from the treasurer under fire for alleged financial improprieties in South Carolina.

Valerie Stamey has not made any public comment since the story broke days ago. The human resources director hand-delivered a letter to Stamey in her office. Commissioners scheduled a meeting with her Thursday.

Commissioner Suzy Foss said Stamey told her she could make a statement earlier than Thursday. Foss said Stamey is scheduled to meet with commissioners Tuesday to give a treasurer's update.

Critics wonder why the county didn't find out about Stamey's controversial history before she went to work in the treasurer's office.

Human Resources Director Robert Jenni said his office conducted a criminal background check on Stamey, which turned out fine. He said he checked two of three references. It is a minimum county background check, said Jenni.

The controversy is prompting a tighter policy.

"That will include fiscal background credit checks," said Jenni, "on any applicants who hold positions of fiduciary responsibility."

Jenni said that would include anyone working in the treasurer's office. He also suggests it include department heads.

The trouble that has spawned massive outcry from local government entities, school districts and regular taxpayers over inaccurate deposits and months of delay has prompted a lot of dissatisfaction.

Taxpayer Ren Cleveland is critical of commissioners for approving $2,300 in expenditures in the treasurer's budget to hire temp workers. He wanted to talk to a commissioner. He found an ear with Suzy Foss.

"As a private citizen I think it is my duty to question you people in handling county business," said Cleveland.

"It's partisan politics at its worst," said Cleveland.

He thinks Stamey needs to resign.

"In the private sector if somebody had the reputation came out like she had," said Cleveland, "I'd fire her."

"I have not had anyone show me that she's not able to do the job," said Foss, "but I've seen a lot of roadblocks from many levels that have prevented her from doing it."

Foss said she is getting calls from people who say Stamey is helpful and concerned. There's more to the story, said Foss.

Ren Cleveland is waiting to hear it.

Meanwhile, NBC Montana looked at Stamey's job application materials on Friday, provided by Ravalli County HR staff. Her resume details her experience in public school food service departments, and how those experiences contributed toward years of government fund accounting experience.

In a response about her experience in investment she wrote:

“I believe my personal background and being motivated to increase returns of my own funds has given me a heightened awareness of what is necessary to operate successfully in the present financial market.”

In a response about “Responsibilities in Public School Administration” she wrote:

“The bulk of my work experience is in Public school administration associated with the National School Lunch Program. I have worked with government regulations and demands and know that failure to follow these completely will hinder receiving funding.”

NBC Montana also obtained on Friday Stamey’s resignation letter from her time with the Missoula School District as Food Services Director. Stamey had filed a lawsuit against the district alleging that the district fired her after a billing mix-up that wasn’t her fault.

However, an attorney for the District, Elizabeth Kaleva tells NBC Montana that the District has not been served with the lawsuit, and they weren’t aware of the lawsuit until Friday. Kaleva tells NBC Montana that the district has reviewed the suit, and if they are served, they would be happy to respond to her allegations, none of which, Kaleva says, are accurate.

 Kaleva tells NBC Montana that Stamey resigned from her position, and provided NBC Montana with the resignation letter. In the letter, Stamey says that she voluntarily resigned for “personal and professional reasons.”