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Frustrations over probe into Recorder Gary Ott leads to call for special investigator

SALT LAKE CITY — Frustrated that a 9-month-and-counting investigation into the well-being of Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott has gone on too long without results, a self-proclaimed concerned citizen is asking Salt Lake County to hire a special investigator.

Jeremy Roberts, a member of the Utah Republican Party, sent a letter detailing his request to the Salt Lake County Council on Friday, concerned that there has been "no known progress or closure" of District Attorney Sim Gill's investigation since his office began the case nine months ago.

"I had confidence in Sim Gill, but nine months later? I'm kind of out of patience," Roberts said Friday. "He's had nine months to investigate this. Meanwhile, Gary has had who knows what going on in his personal life. There's been this cloud over the recorder's office. And we are no closer to a resolution unless somebody knows something I don't."

Roberts — along with others, including county employees and Ott's sister — worry the 66-year-old county recorder is being taken advantage of by his chief deputy Julie Dole and office aide Karmen Sanone, who reports say is either his girlfriend, his fiancee or his wife.

Roberts and others worry the two women are covering up Ott's mental condition to stay in their appointed positions. Dole and Sanone have denied those accusations.

Roberts' call comes after the Deseret News published its first investigative report in February 2016, detailing concerns that the longtime recorder's health could be deteriorating to the point he may no longer be capable of doing his job.

This week, the Deseret News published a new report detailing a rambling and difficult-to-understand conversation with Ott amid mounting concerns from county employees that his work attendance has become increasingly sporadic.

A day after that report was published, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams called on Ott to resign.

After concerns surfaced last year, Roberts submitted a formal complaint with the Utah Attorney General's Office, calling for an investigation into Ott's well-being and whether there is a possible violation of the Abuse, Neglect or Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult Act.

A month after Roberts submitted his complaint, Gill said his office was "taking the lead" on the investigations regarding Ott while working with the Utah Attorney General's Office.

It's been at least nine months since then — a time frame Roberts believes is far too long, particularly because he worries "there's an active crime going on."

Roberts added that if there is truly no foul play and Dole and Sanone are innocent, "they deserve to have their names cleared."

When informed of the request, Gill said it's the council's "prerogative" to decide whether it wants a special investigator.

"But I can honestly tell you we are working on our part," Gill said, though he declined to elaborate on the details of the investigation because it's still ongoing.

Gill says his office is taking the investigation seriously.

"I'm very comfortable with what we have been doing and have been working on," he added. "We haven't let up."

In fact, the district attorney said he just had a meeting with two of his attorneys on Friday "going over this exact issue."

Gill acknowledged it can be frustrating to wait while concerns linger about Ott's well-being.

"I worry about Gary just like anybody else," he said. "I'm not taking this lightly."

Council Chairman Steve DeBry, who writes the council's agendas, did not return requests for comment Friday. But Councilman Richard Snelgrove, the council's vice chairman, said he'd first want to meet with Gill and go over the details of his investigation before deciding whether a special investigator is necessary.

"We need to see where our own attorney is before we spend more money," Snelgrove said, though he noted Ott's well-being is "a legitimate concern."

Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton said she sent an email to DeBry earlier this week requesting that the council put on its agenda a closed-door meeting with Gill to get an update on the investigation and talk about "next steps." She said she's hoping that meeting will happen on June 27.

"There's always a little set aside in our budget in case we need to (hire a special investigator)," Winder said. "But we'll want to talk with Sim Gill first and see if he has any information for us before we go that route."

Winder added that is has been "frustrating" that the investigation has taken so long.

"We are talking about a man's well-being," she said. "As much as we would like to see him step down and to move forward on this issue, our first and foremost concern is his health. And the fact this investigation is taking so long is frustrating."