For those with loved ones afflicted by degenerative illnesses, the passing of former Salt Lake County (SLCo) Recorder Gary Ott on October 19, 2017, is particularly difficult. First elected as the SLCo recorder in 2001, Ott oversaw property records for local residents — to the tune of 190,000 dollars in salary and benefits. After allegations of elder abuse and fraud were brought to the attention of investigators, Ott remained in his position until last summer, when his family successfully petitioned to allow them to make his life decisions. Complicated by the ineptitude of the SLCo District Attorney Sim Gill, the story has dominated Utah headlines for several months. Suffering from a neurodegenerative disease that was kept hidden from the public, Ott died in St. George at the age of 66.
Although the matter was originally overseen by the Utah Attorney General’s Office, SLCo District Attorney Gill petitioned to investigate the matter after a complaint was filed by Jeremy Roberts — a Republican concerned by Ott’s erratic behavior. Once found staggering alone in Tooele on a wintery night, Ott has been rescued by police at least three times. Oddly enough, the details of his diagnoses were only made public during a lawsuit between Ott’s siblings and his former fiancée and assistant, Karmen Sanone, a few weeks ago.
Dr. Trevor J. Squire first diagnosed Ott with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013, when he struggled to repeat words and showed signs of the illness. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, “[Squire] gave an examination to Ott in October 2013 that is designed to determine mental cognition. Ott received a seven out of 30… Anything under 26 is considered ‘possibly abnormal,’ and the lower the score, ‘the more likely the cognitive impairment is.’” Despite his severely diminished state, Ott went on to win his reelection in 2014, with the manipulative “assistance” of his two senior staffers—Sanone and Julie Dole.
The investigation remained motionless in Ott’s office while allegations of elder abuse and ethics violations by Sanone and Dole arose regularly. Throughout the weeks leading up to his passing, Dole and Sanone outright denied that Ott suffered from a terminal affliction. During this time, both managed all emails and public communications on behalf of Ott. Meanwhile, Ott earned 179,746 dollars during fiscal year (FY) 2015, while Dole — his chief deputy — made 179,953 dollars during the same FY period. Sanone earned 65,947 dollars in FY 2015 while overseeing Ott’s personal estate, which failed to pay mortgage bills numerous times. His compensation rose to 190,000 dollars shortly thereafter.
Even if Dole and Sanone did represent the former Recorder faultlessly, Gill should have scrutinized one email, in particular, that was exchanged between the two on May 5, 2016. Using private addresses, Sanone sent Dole a document entitled “Gary Ott Trust Outline.” The intended outcome, of course, was to relinquish Ott’s trust to Sanone entirely. This included the capacity to make end-of-life choices on his behalf, which was the center of the lawsuit between Sanone and Ott’s family.
“Perception is one thing. Reality is another,” Gill told Fox 13 News. Continuing, Gill said “Evidence is totally different from that as well… Just because there’s an emotional investment here and people want somebody’s head on a platter doesn’t mean you go out and start filing charges.” Even if one assumes that Dole and Sanone acted benevolently, it is preposterous for Gill to insinuate an “emotional” witch hunt is occurring. Instead of providing comfort and assurance for the community, Gill’s emotional plea was a tactic to evade the public spotlight.
Before continuing, let us look at the details presented thus far. Gary Ott was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013 after scoring a seven out of 30 on a test designed to measure cognitive ability. The results of the test and Dr. Squire’s prognoses were made known to Sanone and Dole. Meanwhile, Ott’s two nefarious aides effectively ran his office and all personal communications, attempting to make his emails appear genuine. Each year, Dole earned slightly higher than the SLCo County Recorder himself, while Sanone attempted to sign his trust over to herself. The two were Ott’s closest advisors and stood idly by as he was discovered repeatedly by police in a disoriented state. Somehow, none of this seemed remotely troubling to Gill, Sanone or Dole. To date, no charges have been filed.
SLCo Republican Party Chairman Jake Parkinson held a news conference on October 24, 2017, confronting Gill’s office for taking a year to investigate an obvious breach of public faith. Dole, who sickeningly appeared at the press conference, reportedly defended Gill’s honor after the event. Sure, why not praise the investigator who has glossed over your disturbing abuse and fraud? Gill, a Democrat himself, has since responded by claiming that Republicans are unfairly targeting him for what he laughably believes is a proper investigation.
Gill seems to forget when he once faced immense scrutiny from members of Black Lives Matter, who also requested his resignation after an officer shot 50-year-old, Patrick Harmon, as he ran away from police. The Salt Lake Police Association and the Utah Fraternal Order of Police both supported Gill’s opponents when he decided to run for reelection in 2014.
Parkinson called on Gill to resign, adding that “Sim Gill has both the power to compel and subpoena and has no excuse for not having all the information available within a week of having the investigation in his office.” Reportedly, Gill has yet to meet with the individuals who filed the original complaints against Ott’s conduct. The SLCo Republican Party asserts that charges should have been filed by now, and Gill’s repeated incompetence is evidence that he ought to resign.
I cannot help but agree.