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Embattled former deputy recorder Julie Dole asks county leaders for severance pay

SALT LAKE CITY — Embattled former deputy county recorder Julie Dole, a woman accused of covering up former Recorder Gary Ott's health issues to keep her job, has asked county leaders for severance pay.

Dole, who fellow Salt Lake County Republicans rejected last week in her bid to replace Ott, sent a letter to the Salt Lake County Council and Mayor Ben McAdams requesting six weeks of pay after the new recorder, Adam Gardiner, declined to keep her on his staff.

"I ask that, as you consider my request, that you view the honorable way in which I conducted my position as chief deputy recorder in running the recorder's office with efficiency and integrity," Dole wrote in the Monday letter. "Noting that during Mr. Ott's challenges and all the difficulties it placed in the way, I never waivered (sic) in my dedication to meeting the needs of the office and it's (sic) staff and customers."

County Councilman Steve DeBry was audibly exasperated when asked about Dole's request Friday.

"First of all, I think she has a lot of gall to even ask for such a thing," DeBry said. "We're just all taken aback that she would have the audacity to even consider broaching the subject with us after what occurred over the last year and a half."

Regardless, attorneys have said the council does not appear to have any authority to approve any sort of severance pay for Dole, DeBry said, because that falls under the independent elected official's authority.

"It's just unbelievable that she would even consider broaching that subject, even if it was within our legal purview to grant that, I think there's no way on earth we would even consider doing that," DeBry said. "I think our citizens would be outraged and expect us to say, 'Sorry, but no.'"

In response to a request for comment, Dole said in a text message: "I believe my request says it all."

Since the Deseret News first began investigating Ott's health in February of 2016, Dole repeatedly dismissed or downplayed Ott's health concerns and denied accusations that she was hiding Ott's condition so she could stay in her high-paying job, collecting about $190,000 in taxpayer-paid salary and benefits.

Dole said she had never noticed any problem that prevented Ott from doing his job, and she insisted that the recorder was running the office just like he always had, but that he just wasn't a "detail leader." She would also routinely answer questions on Ott's behalf, interjecting when others tried to directly speak with him.

As Ott's health issues became more apparent throughout the Deseret News' investigation — including a 45-minute incoherent interview in June, and multiple Weber County reports describing several welfare checks on Ott — Dole has said she never tried to hide Ott's condition, but rather she had no place or right, as Ott's employee, to speak about his private life.

Dole acknowledged in her letter that severance pay for county employees is usually granted by the appointing elected official, who in her case would be Ott.

"But as you are all aware, Mr. Ott's condition did not allow for things to progress as they would normally, which is why my request comes before each of you," she wrote.

"I come to each of you looking for a fair shake, knowing that I worked hard for the recorder's office and the county up to my very last day, never slacking or leaving work undone," Dole continued. "Because of this dedication to the county and my position, I was unable to take time to set up other employment prior to the end of my appointed position, and as a none-merit (employee), I have no paid leave payout to fall back on."

Earlier this month — the day county Republicans met to discuss and extend an ongoing investigation into Dole's actions — the deputy recorder announced she was fighting a "winning" battle with breast cancer.

In her letter to county leaders, Dole said that battle "hasn't gone without putting a heavy financial drain on my family, leaving me without savings," and the "termination of my employment leaves me without an income" or the ability to afford the insurance to continue with her treatment.

Dole said if she doesn't maintain her insurance until she can find another job with insurance, "then my cancer treatments will be considered a pre-existing condition and not covered on the next plan I obtain."

The Affordable Care Act does not allow insurers to deny health coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Dole said that "while 12 weeks of severance pay would be greatly appreciated to dig me out of the financial hole I have been placed in with unexpected medical expenses, I believe a minimum of six weeks will allow me" to cover insurance costs and provide "enough money to put food on the table for my children."

McAdams, like DeBry, referred to the county's attorney's advice that the council would not be following policy if it approved a severance package for Dole.

"But I don't think there's a will on the council to do it, even if it was within policy," the mayor said.

McAdams added, however, that he "felt compassion for her and her health circumstances and wish her the best as she looks for another job."

"But these are tax dollars that we're spending, and we have to be careful to make sure they're spent appropriately," he said. "Oftentimes when we have to follow policy, that may result in some circumstances that are unfortunate for the person leaving the county because they don't have a job."

When Dole was Ott's deputy, she earned an annual base salary of about $136,000 and about $54,000 in benefits, according to Utah's transparency website.