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FBI probes Ravalli County treasurer's office

 

March 14, 2014



HAMILTON — The FBI is investigating allegations made by the interim county treasurer that Ravalli County didn't maintain its files properly and allowed tax liens to be sold illegally, county officials say.

The Ravalli Republic (http://bit.ly/1m7gqDo) reports that County Attorney Bill Fulbright and Sheriff Chris Hoffman on Friday confirmed the FBI investigation.

On another front, retired District Judge Nels Swandal is also conducting an independent investigation into the allegations. Fulbright said he expects to receive that report soon.

"We were very careful in ensuring this was an independent investigation," Fulbright said. "I served as his point of contact, but that's all. He has not shared any details of his investigation with me."

Treasurer Valerie Stamey was put on paid leave on Jan. 23 after falling months behind in depositing money and providing disbursements and financial reports.

She failed to attend a commission meeting called that day for her to explain a civil judgment she faced in South Carolina that alleged she cashed an $18,149 check twice. Two days before that at the last public hearing Stamey attended, she said the county's books were a mess when she was appointed in September.

Late last month, Ravalli County commissioners decided to file a lawsuit seeking $29,000 in fines from Stamey for failing to complete dozens of financial reports over a three-month period. State law allows county commissioners to seek $500 for each report missed. Commissioners determined that Stamey failed to file 58 reports.

Also last month, a Butte auditing firm hired to look into the matter filed a status report that said Ravalli County's accounting mess happened because the office of the treasurer failed to fulfill its duties.

Jim Woy of Anderson ZurMuehlen said that the day Stamey was put on leave, $952,372.78 was found in checks and cash in the treasurer's office that hadn't been deposited. County employees deposited nearly $800,000 of that by Jan. 31.

The report also said that hundreds of checks hadn't been deposited, and auditors found piles of paperwork that hadn't been completed. The report said that about $170,000 in checks and about $1,500 in cash was counted, with most of that having been deposited and receipts generated. Another problem investigators found was that mills for the open space bond weren't properly updated.

Fulbright said he hasn't received another report from the accounting firm.

Stamey said the audit libeled her and she planned to sue for $10 million. It's unclear if she's done that.

County commissioners on a 3-2 vote in September appointed Stamey interim treasurer. Three of the office's most experienced workers quit during her four-month tenure, citing a hostile work environment.

Last month, commissioners Jeff Burrows and Suzy Foss apologized for their decision to hire Stamey.

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