- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) - Ravalli County’s treasurer lashed back Tuesday at critics who blame her for delays in disbursing tax money to towns, schools, fire departments and other government entities.

Valerie Stamey accused one county commissioner of corruption and described a “vile campaign to destroy my character” in a statement she read to during a commission meeting before abruptly walking out.

In her statement, Stamey blamed her predecessors for the problems in the department, called her office a “crime scene of past illegal activity” and said she planned to ask the FBI to investigate her allegations of wrongdoing by Commissioner J.R. Iman and others.

She demanded the commission pay a security guard to protect public records at her office, remove all signatories but her own from the treasurer’s account and suspend an employee. She also wants all correspondence with her office to be non-electronic writings directly addressed to her and for commissioners to cease all contact with her department’s employees during business hours.

“I will establish office protocols in accordance with Montana state law for the proper disbursement and keeping of all public funds,” Stamey said. “Montana law has been held in contempt by this commission and by prior county treasurers. This will end today.”

After the meeting, Iman told the Ravalli Republic he had no idea what Stamey was talking about.

Commissioner Jeff Burrows said he was taken by surprise by her statement that included allegations that he had ignored her pleas to do something about Iman, the Republic reported in a story posted Tuesday (http://bit.ly/1bgH3fr).

“I had zero idea that that was coming,” Burrows said.

Stamey was appointed in September to fill the term of Marie Keeton, who resigned. Since then, the office lost three of its most experienced employees who have questioned Stamey’s qualifications and ability to do the work.

Some government entities had not received any tax payments since September because of the backlog. The commission earlier this month decided to bring in state Department of Administration staff to assist and to have county chief financial officer Klarryse Murphy review the amounts that should go to each entity and write checks.

Last week, the commission learned that Stamey faced a 2010 default judgment in South Carolina that claimed she cashed the same $18,149 check twice.

“I have done nothing illegal so get out of my private life,” Stamey said in her statement.

Tuesday’s meeting was supposed to be a status report, but Stamey’s statement did not include any sort of office update.

Instead, Stamey alleged that former county treasurer, Joanne Johnson, had removed files to hide the illegal sales of tax liens by her deputies, Linda Isaac and Mary Borden.

On Tuesday, Johnson told The Associated Press that she had no comment because she was not at the meeting and has not heard the allegations leveled against her by Stamey. Borden’s husband, Rick, said Tuesday that his wife was unavailable to comment. There was no phone listing for Isaac.

All three women have previously complained that Stamey had created a hostile workplace.

Lavonne Miller, former treasurer Joanne Johnson’s sister, told the Ravalli Republic that all three women mentioned by Stamey were devoted employees and had no reason to do what Stamey alleged.

“Whatever Val is trying to pull out of the slums is not true,” she said.

Stamey said Iman threatened her when she attempted to access county bank accounts and kept the combination of the treasurer’s safe from her.

She said her pleas for help to other commissioners “fell on deaf ears.”

Following Stamey’s statement, several people asked the commission to consider a forensic audit for both the time period that Stamey had referred to and for the months since she took over the office.

Former County Commissioner Kathleen Driscoll called Stamey’s statement “a wonderful example of deflection. … I had hoped to hear what she’s been doing rather than hearing her pull everyone else into the swamp with her.”

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Information from: Ravalli Republic, http://www.ravallirepublic.com