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Council holds closed-door meeting amid concerns about county recorder

FILE: Gary Ott speaks before the first round of balloting for Salt Lake County mayor at the Salt Lake County GOP convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 14, 2012.
FILE: Gary Ott speaks before the first round of balloting for Salt Lake County mayor at the Salt Lake County GOP convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 14, 2012.
Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — What exactly should or can be done about concerns surrounding Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott's health remains an unknown.

The Salt Lake County Council held an hourlong closed meeting with Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill on Tuesday to discuss "the character, professional competence or physical or mental health of an individual," according to the council's agenda.

After the meeting, County Council Chairman Max Burdick said he and other council members could not discuss the topic of the meeting or its outcome.

However, Burdick said last week that he planned to hold a closed meeting to discuss the situation regarding Ott.

On Feb. 29, the Deseret News reported that county leaders and employees — as well as recent police reports and an investigation into Ott's office — have raised concerns about Ott's health and whether he is capable of running his office.

Ott has declined to respond to the Deseret News regarding questions about his health or memory issues. One of Ott's right-hand administrators, Karmen Sanone, said that issue was personal but insisted there is nothing preventing her boss from doing his job.

However, some County Council members have said they've been concerned about Ott's health for some time but have had difficulty pursuing a course of action.

That's because there is nothing in election law providing for a process to address situations where elected officials may be suffering from health issues that could prevent them from fulfilling their duties.

By law, voters themselves must evaluate elected officials, and officeholders cannot be recalled unless they commit high crimes, misdemeanors or malfeasance while in office.

It's an issue that has prompted a state lawmaker, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, to consider some changes to election law. However, that won't happen until possibly next year, because the 2016 legislative session ends on Thursday. Plus, Eliason said it's a complicated issue that should not be addressed with a "knee-jerk reaction to a one-person situation."

Since Ott is a Republican, Salt Lake County GOP Chairwoman Suzanne Mulet said she also plans to meet with Ott to discuss his "options," though she would not elaborate on what those options could be.

Ott, who was re-elected to his fourth term in January 2015, will not be up for re-election until the end of 2020. Normally, Salt Lake County officials serve four-year terms. However, Ott was one of four Salt Lake County officials granted a one-time, two-year term extension in 2014.

The measure, passed during the 2011 Utah Legislature, allows a one-time variance in terms to create a stagger and avoid situations where all eight elected county offices, outside of the mayor, could be starting new terms simultaneously.

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com

Twitter: KatieMcKellar1