Council hopes to ‘move on’ after Gary Ott leaves office and GOP looks for replacement

Chief Deputy Julie Dole sworn in as acting recorder; GOP meets Aug. 17 to pick interim leader.<br>

Julie Dole, who has run the Salt Lake County recorder’s office amid the public decline of Gary Ott’s mental health, was sworn in Tuesday as his replacement until the county Republican Party picks a replacement in two weeks.

She was sworn in the day that Ott’s resignation — negotiated by his family in exchange for a $35,000 severance payment — became effective. It was also one day after State Auditor John Dougall said Dole and others in the office should have known the office employed Ott’s former fiancée, possibly against the county’s nepotism ordinance.

Council members said they wanted to move forward now that Ott is out of the public spotlight and in a medical facility for treatment of a permanent but unknown mental illness as other investigations continue.

“He’s getting medical care. The family stepped up. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for the guardianship that the court’s provided so that he’s being taken care of,” Chairman Steve DeBry said at a Tuesday hearing, adding that he was surprised when he received a text Tuesday morning notifying him that Dole was sworn in by County Clerk Sherrie Swensen.

But the council dissolved all of its ongoing inquiries, including whether Ott lived in his house within his district as required by law or with the office’s exempt secretary, Karmen Sanone, in Weber County. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill’s office continues investigating the operations of the office over the past several years.

Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw, who was on the committee set up to investigate Ott’s residency, said with him out of office and receiving medical care, there’s no desire to continue the review.

“Nobody‘s interested in going after Gary Ott,” Bradshaw said. He noted any violation of nepotism rules could possibly be a violation by Ott, and the council wasn’t interested in pursuing that.

Sanone, who makes nearly $70,000 annually in salary and benefits, attended Tuesday’s meeting but left shortly before the council addressed the issues in the office. She’s fighting Ott’s siblings in a court case that will determine who will be his permanent legal guardian, and the judge has preliminarily ruled in the family’s favor.

There is no evidence Ott was involved in running the office following his re-election in 2014. Instead, emails and other documents obtained by The Tribune show Sanone and Dole communicated frequently about all office matters. The two also admitted to having access to Ott’s email account, had taken over his laptop computer and Sanone said she had partial control of Ott’s personal finances.

DeBry called the arrangement in the recorder’s office ”smoke and mirrors” and said it appeared there were ”strings being pulled.” He said statements from Sanone and Dole have changed as more details have come to light over the past seven weeks.

“They were manipulating Gary,” DeBry, a Unified Police Department deputy chief, said. 

Within hours of Dole being sworn in as acting recorder, a portrait of Ott that hung in his office for years was taken down. A sign on the door read ”County Recorder Julie Dole.” A notice on the website was changed to display Dole as the recorder. As chief deputy when Ott resigned, Dole was in place to become acting recorder until an interim is chosen. She is hoping the party will choose her from a crowd of interested candidates.

The council also took action to prevent certain expenditures in the recorder’s office until county Republicans choose an interim replacement to serve until the November 2018 election.