Dispute in treasurer’s office costs $70K so far

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HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) - The Ravalli County attorney is recommending commissioners wait for the full results of an audit before filing an official misconduct lawsuit against the county’s embattled treasurer. Under state law, the lawsuit would allow the county to remove her from the payroll.

County Attorney Bill Fulbright said Thursday he believed it would be prudent to wait before suing Valerie Stamey, who was appointed interim treasurer in September and placed on paid leave in January after failing to file several reports. She also refused to answer questions about a default judgment in a South Carolina civil lawsuit for twice cashing an $18,000 check.

Commissioners approved filing a $29,000 lawsuit against Stamey in March.

“In the contest of a lawsuit lasting three to five years, waiting one or two months is a drop in the bucket to put the county in the right position to protect county taxpayers and county funds,” Fulbright said.

Commissioners say the dispute over the treasurer’s office and investigation has cost taxpayers $70,000 so far, including Stamey’s ongoing pay and compensation for a retired Beaverhead County treasurer to help sort through the backlog of work.

An audit found Stamey had failed to deposit nearly $1 million in tax payments before she was placed on leave and that she failed to forward payments to the state, county schools and other entities. An independent investigation found personnel problems in the treasurer’s office, but no missing files or other illegalities as Stamey had alleged.

The FBI also began an investigation of Stamey’s claims last month. Fulbright said he did not know the status of that investigation.

Commissioner J.R. Iman said Thursday he was frustrated by the county’s inability to directly address the issue, but said he agreed that “a little bit of caution” was a good idea because he’s seen the costs the county has incurred when it has been pulled into lawsuits it was not prepared to defend.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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