SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County Republican Party late Thursday announced it will continue investigating a county administrator accused of covering up former Recorder Gary Ott's health issues in order to keep her job.
The party decided in a closed meeting to push back by a month its vote on taking disciplinary action against Julie Dole. The decision to prolong the investigation allows her to remain in the running to replace Ott as Salt Lake County recorder.
"We held off because we believe we haven't gathered all the information that's out there," said party Chairman Jake Parkinson. He said he and his colleagues are weighing whether Dole broke the party's by-laws and tarnished its reputation.
But he offered few details about the probe that now will extend past the party's central committee vote to choose the new recorder on Aug. 17.
"We all would have liked to have concluded this matter prior to this election," Parkinson said, but the party has received "scores" of phone calls and has collected documents that need more time for review at the party's Sept. 14 meeting.
Dole, Ott's former chief deputy, was sworn in as acting county recorder until the party chooses a replacement. She is one of seven people interested in the post.
She maintains her innocence.
"I know I haven't done anything wrong," Dole said after the hourlong closed session. "It would have been nice to have that declared publicly."
Dole told reporters after the meeting that she had urged Ott to resign and said she told attorneys in county government that she had concerns about him, but would not offer specifics about those conversations. She said she believed her job description prohibited her from going into detail.
"Even when he wasn't making sense, he refused to resign," she said of her former boss.
That contradicts previous statements Dole has made. She repeatedly dismissed or downplayed any health concerns about Ott to the Deseret News since the newspaper first published an investigation in February of 2016 into whether Ott was really running his office. She said she had never noticed any problem that prevented him from doing his job.
She insisted Ott was running the office but just wasn't a "detail leader." Dole would also routinely answer questions on Ott's behalf, even interjecting when others tried to directly speak with him.
"He stopped coming to the office as much," Dole said Thursday. "He stopped wanting to be as involved. And it seemed like it was time for him to move on. It seemed like he had some challenges, none of which he would specifically address with me."
When asked Thursday if Dole knew about health issues of her boss before his re-election in 2014, she said she noticed Ott developed a stutter and he took longer to respond after a bout with shingles in 2012.
"I had no desire to make Gary Ott a public spectacle or drag his good reputation through the mud," Dole wrote in a letter released hours before the meeting to tell her side of the story.
She said in the letter she didn't have specifics about his condition or the authority to say something without damaging his reputation, violating his privacy or breaking what she says is a confidentiality requirement in her job description.
A three-member investigative panel has heard from "scores of people" and collected hundreds of pages of information, as well as testimony from Dole, Parkinson said. The party isn't investigating how she performed her previous job as deputy recorder.
The party Thursday released its own letter to Dole dated Aug. 3 saying it would investigate allegations against her, including that she knowingly hid from the party and voters "that Recorder Gary Ott was neither in day-to-day control of his office" and that she "perpetrated or participated in what was tantamount to a 'coup' … in effectively seizing control of the Salt Lake County Recorder's Office."
Dole denies accusations that she tried to manipulate Ott and said the party has provided no evidence against her.
The party on Sept. 14 is set to review the second leg of its investigation and weigh discipline against her. It could choose to remove her Senate district chairmanship in the county GOP.
The state auditor concluded that Ott had very little oversight or involvement in his office, which was instead being run by Dole and senior managers. A separate investigation by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office is looking at allegations against Dole and Ott's former government affairs liaison, Karmen Sanone, who was in a relationship with Ott according to multiple reports.
Sanone's resigned from her job earlier this month.
In a separate Facebook post Thursday, Dole said she has been treated unfairly by her party and the press and did everything she could to do a good job.
Dole in the post also disclosed she's fighting breast cancer as a single mother of two, but expects she "will soon be fully recovered."
Concerns about Ott's health have played out publicly over the last year and a half while he continued to collect $190,000 in taxpayer-paid salary and benefits. Throughout that time, his work attendance appeared to dwindle and he became unable to engage in coherent conversations.
County officials struggled to address the issue, having no legal means to remove Ott from office. But the situation changed when Ott's family recently obtained legal guardianship of him and worked with attorneys and county leaders to draft a resignation deal. His resignation was effective Aug. 1.