Julie Dole makes quick work with staffing changes in recorder's office she's overseeing for now

County councilwoman questions moves ahead of Aug. 17 GOP election.

In this Oct. 4, 2016, photo, Salt Lake County County Recorder Gary Ott sits with his chief deputy Julie Dole before the Salt Lake County Council's findings of the County Auditor's performance audit of his office in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said in a statement Thursday, July 20, 2017, that Ott, who has been placed under his family's guardianship after more than a year public questions about his mental capacity will resign his office, would resign his office Aug. 1. (Al Hartmann/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Within hours of taking over former Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott’s office Tuesday, acting recorder Julie Dole began making staffing changes.

She forced out Ott’s aide and former fiancée, Karmen Sanone, who had hoped to resign effective Aug. 16 but left the Salt Lake County government building Tuesday without a job.

On Wednesday, she appointed Rich Richmond, a division administrator in the office, as her chief deputy. The flurry of change comes as Dole takes hold of the office she’s hoping to retain when the Salt Lake County Republican Party chooses Ott’s interim replacement Aug. 17.

“As recorder I can do appointments,” Dole said Wednesday. County Clerk Sherrie Swensen confirmed her office had sworn in Richmond for the temporary appointment.

Dole, who was on vacation since mid-July before being sworn in, said she made the appointment during her temporary role because the county is nearing budgeting season and “if I’m not here the only other person that can do anything for me is the chief deputy.”

“This move seems unnecessary and just adds to the ongoing turmoil in that office.”<br>— Councilwoman Jenny Wilson

County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson called the appointment ”presumptuous.”

“Unless Julie Dole wins the election she’ll be replaced within weeks,” Wilson said. “This move seems unnecessary and just adds to the ongoing turmoil in that office.”

Sanone, who is fighting Ott’s family in a court battle over his legal guardianship, wrote in a July 27 email she was resigning after a 3rd District Court judge approved his resignation, brokered by his attorney, family and the county.

“Whenever an elected official steps down, they do that at the federal, state county, city level,” Sanone said Wednesday. “Everybody that’s appointed always submits a letter of resignation. After every election whether the incumbent won or not.”

Sanone was hired two days after Ott won re-election in 2014. Dole wrote county human resources to advise them Ott wanted Sanone hired to fill the position, though Sanone now says that was Dole’s call.

Sanone said in June that Dole hired her over Ott’s objections. “He didn’t want the scandal of hiring me,” she said.

Dole on Wednesday said the details of her email hiring Sanone within hours of the election was accurate.

“I don’t know why [Sanone] said that,” Dole said. “Gary wanted her.”

In a Wednesday letter, Dole asked Sanone to turn in any county property and, if she had access, to bring any property issued to Ott by Friday.

State and county officials have accused the office of likely knowingly violating the county’s anti-nepotism ordinance by hiring Sanone. Ott may have been living with her at her Weber County farm.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill’s office also continues to investigate the office.

“When we get into the realm of criminal issue, it has to be based on admissible evidence and witnesses that can come forward,” Gill said this week. “My colleague Jeff Hall has been following up on it.”

The Republican Party also has its own investigation into Dole as she seeks appointment by the central committee to hold onto the office through 2018.

“I can’t speak to the specifics but it is still ongoing,” said Jake Parkinson, chairman of the county Republican Party. “It’s also a significant concern by voters. I’m contacted every day by voters who are glad we’re doing an investigation and they want to see it.”

The party will meet Aug. 10 to discuss its findings, Parkinson said. A week later, the party will pick from between seven candidates – Dole, state Rep. Adam Gardiner, Melvin Nimer, Sterling Shoell, Jeff Lund, Scott Miller and a candidate who hasn’t yet publicly announced but told Parkinson he or she is interested.

Dole said the party’s investigation didn’t represent the entire central committee that will choose an interim recorder.

“That’s not all Republicans,” she said. “That’s just a couple people that already have their own agenda.”