SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah elected official who has been placed under his family’s guardianship after more than a year of public questions about his mental capacity will resign his office under a deal struck by his family and county officials.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said in a statement Thursday that Gary Ott, the county’s recorder, would resign his office Aug. 1.
Ott, a 64-year-old Republican, has served in this position since 2001. The county recorder is responsible for overseeing the management and keeping of deeds and other property records.
Mary Corporon, an attorney for Ott’s family, said at a press conference that public speculation about Ott’s diminished mental capacity has been frustrating and embarrassing for the family and they’re relieved Ott can retire in privacy.
Corporon declined to answer questions about his medical condition but court documents say he’s unable to fulfill his elected office because of “mental incapacity that is not temporary in nature.”
When asked if Ott, who is being treated at a medical facility, was aware of the resignation deal, Corporan said, “I don’t know how to answer that question. I couldn’t tell you what Mr. Ott is and is not aware of at this point.”
Public concern about Ott’s condition has been growing for more than a year after Ott was found by police walking along a highway in January, wearing light clothes despite frigid temperatures and speaking incoherently.
An audit last year found that Ott had little oversight or involvement in his office’s activities.
When county council members questioned him at a hearing in October, he gave jumbled answers and struggled to answer basic questions such as “What’s your address?”
Ott was elected to a six-year term ending in 2020 and cannot legally be forced to resign by county officials and continued receiving a taxpayer salary of about $150,000 annually.
Ott’s siblings were granted temporary legal guardianship last week and moved immediately to work out a resignation deal, according to Corporon, who is one of Ott’s ex-wives. They divorced in 1991.
Corporon said a judge must still sign off on the resignation deal, which a lawyer for Mr. Ott also agreed to, but that’s expected to happen soon. Ott will receive a lump sum payment of $35,000 as severance.
The statement from the district attorney and mayor said Ott served the county well and honorably for many years.
“We are hopeful today’s agreement will allow Mr. Ott to move forward more privately into the retirement he deserves,” the statement said.
Ott’s aide Karmen Sanone, who’s been identified as his girlfriend, had asked a judge to remove Ott’s family and instead appoint her as the legal guardian, but a judge ruled against her.
Sanone has controlled his finances since 2014, according to an attorney appointed to represent Ott’s interests.
County officials have accused Sanone and Ott’s chief deputy, Julie Dole of covering up Ott’s condition and manipulating him.
Emails obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News this week showed Sanone and Dole had access to his email. In one message, Sanone wrote to Dole in March about an inquiry from the county mayor’s office and wrote “I am not sure how to respond so this looks as if it is coming from Gary’s computer.”
Both women say they respond to emails on Dole’s behalf after consulting him and have denied manipulating him.
No publicly listed phone number was available for Sanone to seek a comment Thursday. A message left at a phone number listed for Dole was not immediately returned.
Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.
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