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Judge: No evidence of criminal conduct in Ravalli Co. Treasurer's Office

By Scott Zoltan, KECI Reporter, szoltan@keci.com
Published On: Apr 10 2014 03:17:16 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 10 2014 10:23:31 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

An independent judge investigating claims of criminal wrongdoing in the Ravalli County Treasurer’s office has issued his final report.

Judge Nels Swandal reports he did not find any evidence of criminal conduct. Click here for the judge's full report.

Appointed Treasurer Valerie Stamey claimed top county leaders were guilty of corruption. Stamey is on paid administrative leave after being accused of not doing her job by failing to balance the books, deposit the county’s money or paying its bills.

“I think it's a good step combined with the ongoing audit to find out everything that is going on or was going on with the treasurer's office,” said Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright.

It was Fulbright who called on retired district court judge Nels Swandal to perform the investigation. The judge interviewed more than 15 people over its course, including commissioners and county employees.

He begins the report with discussion of the initial hiring of Valerie Stamey. He writes that commissioners fulfilled their duties and voted in an effort to best service the citizens of Ravalli County with the information they were given.

The one criticism the judge submits is that the commissioners should have taken more time to conduct a thorough background check of the candidates and that doing so would have revealed Stamey's financial problems out of South Carolina. The vote, the judge says, would have been different.

Further into the report, the judge addresses issues in the treasurer's office. He writes that confict between employees existed before Stamey was appointed, and there were personal differences and petty jealousies.

Stamey's appointment, the judge writes, may have escalated those problems. The judge says certain employees decided they would not train Stamey and left her to figure out her responsibilities. On the other hand, the judge writes, Stamey should have made more effort to learn her duties and responsibilities, and fault lies with many parties. 

The judge also discussed Stamey's allegations against county commissioners and workers. She had said that Commissioner JR Iman prevented her from having access to the treasurers safe and bank account. The judge says he found no evidence that this occurred.

Fulbright says officials will also wait to see if any evidence of crimes is developed by the pending FBI investigation, to see if a referral to the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation is appropriate.

We received a prepared statement from Stamey's attorney, Robert Myers, addressing Swandal's investigation.

When reached for comment, Valerie Stamey said of the report, “I found it to be a basic whitewash and a situation where Mr. Swandal makes one statement and then contradicts it in the next. It felt a little bit like I was listening to a marriage counselor who said that he understood how everyone felt, he saw both sides of the story but yet made no real discoveries or real statements."

Former Ravalli county treasurer JoAnne Johnson tells NBC Montana that she’s happy about the report.

“I was glad to see it came out in favor of the truth. So far, everything that I've seen in it is accurate and correct, and I'm glad finally that our side got to come out,” said Johnson.