Former Ravalli County Treasurer Valerie Stamey has failed to meet filing deadlines in her $20 million federal court lawsuit against Ravalli County officials and Bitterroot Star owner Michael Howell, prompting attorneys to file motions to dismiss the case.
Stamey claimed in a federal court lawsuit in June that she was illegally fired in 2014, and sued 13 current and former county employees, as well as the owners of the Bitterroot Star, who she said all covered up long-term deficiencies in the treasurer’s office.
Stamey was interim treasurer for eight tumultuous months in which the office fell behind in maintaining the county’s books, key employees quit, and bank deposits weren’t made. After Stamey was suspended, county officials found about $780,000 piled on her desk and in boxes on her floor.
On Oct. 13, the county filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit for Stamey’s failure to state a claim that would entitle her to some type of relief. Her response to that was due by Nov. 3.
On Oct. 24, Howell’s attorney Mike Meloy also filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, writing that Stamey failed to file the initial lawsuit within the statute of limitations. Stamey’s response to Meloy was due on Nov. 14.
For some unexplained reason, on Oct. 27 Stamey sought an extension to file her brief in response to the county until Nov. 3 — when it initially was due, Meloy noted.
“While it was clear the court was puzzled by this request, it nonetheless granted an extension of time for filing a response until Nov. 14, 2017, the same deadline for responding to Howell’s motion to dismiss,” Meloy wrote, noting that the judge explained that perhaps Stamey was confused.
In that Oct. 27 document, Stamey's attorney Robert Myers writes that it was “due today, Sept. 27.” He then proceeds to argue that Stamey had lived in South Carolina for more than two years, which meant Montana had no jurisdiction when the county filed a lawsuit against Stamey in June 2014 after she was suspended.
The county issued six separate summonses before finally tracking Stamey down, and in 2016 a district court judge ruled that Stamey committed official misconduct by failing to perform her statutory duties. The district court judge ordered her to pay the county $151,478.
That prompted Stamey to file the federal court lawsuit in June 2017 against Howell, and current or former commissioners Greg Chilcott, J.R. Iman, Jeff Burrows, Chris Hoffman and Suzzy Foss; Ravalli County Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg; former deputy treasurers Linda Issacs, Mary Borden and Bonnie Dugan; former treasurer Joanne Johnson; and county employees Karlyse Murphy and Jana Exner.
She filed an amended complaint in September, and Howell filed a counterclaim on Oct. 16, saying Stamey didn’t have any probable cause for suing him, and that her lawsuit not only should be dismissed, but she also should pay for his attorney fees, for damaged caused by her assertion, and for punitive damages.
Stamey didn’t file anything until Nov. 21, when she provided a notice containing what Meloy characterized as “a rambling, stream-of-consciousness narrative” about some alleged failure to property serve a summons. She added that Myers was having problems with his password that prevented him from filing documents.
“This was actually a blessing in disguise because the original attempted filing was based on a false factual belief,” Myers wrote. “The plaintiff was under the mistaken belief that there was only one attempt of service on her in South Carolina were (sic) the process server served plaintiff’s husband and not her by throwing documents at him. What plaintiff’s counsel was unware (sic) of was that the plaintiff was later served.”
He then describes a “deep investigation” into jurisdiction and official misconduct to explain the delay in timely findings, noting that “this was indeed very complex.”
Meloy argues in his most recent case filing on Nov. 23 that a technical failure doesn’t excuse an untimely finding, and in Howell’s case, Stamey still hasn’t even made an effort to justify her failure to respond to Howell’s motion to dismiss, nor did she request additional time to file a response.
“(This) motion to dismiss is ripe for ruling,” Meloy wrote.
Gregory Bonilla, an attorney representing the county defendants, concurred with a motion submitted Wednesday.
Stamey’s response “is now 15 days overdue,” Bonilla wrote. “Plaintiff has done nothing to rectify the technical issues or otherwise sought a solution to the technical problem. In short, (Stamey) has been recalcitrant about filing her responsive pleading. No less drastic measure than dismissal with prejudice presents.”