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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott’s staff has been fielding his emails for years, and Ott’s top aide sought to make it “look as if” an email came from Ott’s computer on at least one occasion, according to emails obtained by the Deseret News through a public records request.
Ott’s chief deputy, Julie Dole, and his office aide, Karmen Sanone — who is currently involved in a legal dispute with Ott’s family over his guardianship — both have access to Ott’s computer and email account and have been responding to and fielding his emails for years, according to the record request.
In March, Dole forwarded an email to Sanone that had originally been sent to Ott from Salt Lake County Deputy Mayor Erin Litvack regarding changes to certain meetings. Sanone replied to Dole, asking her how she could make the response to Litvack look like it came from Ott.
"I am not sure how to respond so this looks as if it is coming from Gary's computer," Sanone wrote in her reply to Dole. "I guess I can access his account with his password, but Erin probably knows he isn't here today. I parked underneath today and Maren Slaugh and a couple other people from the Mayor's office saw me."
Sanone then mentioned she thought Litvack’s suggestion “might actually be a good idea” and asked Dole how she thought they should handle the situation.
Dole responded within 10 minutes and wrote, “I meant to respond from you, having spoke (sic) to Gary. I think everyone knows that Gary does not email."
After Dole’s reply, Sanone responded to Litvack within half an hour saying she had spoken to Ott and that he was in favor of the change.
According to Dole, the women have sent emails for Ott for years, but only after consulting him. Dole said she has had all Ott’s emails forwarded to her since she was hired in 2014 and responded or fielded them to the right party since. Sanone said Ott hasn’t typed since his hand was injured in a farm equipment accident in 2015.
Sanone and Dole have both been accused by county employees and Ott’s family members of “manipulation” and covering up Ott’s health concerns, which county officials say make him incapable of continuing in his post as county recorder. Both Sanone and Dole have repeatedly denied the accusations.
Ott’s family has recently begun a pursuit to obtain legal guardianship of the county recorder and last month a judge signed an emergency order to pick up Ott from Weber County, where he’s been living with Sanone.
The Deseret News asked Sanone why she would want to make an email “look as if” it’s coming from Ott’s computer and Sanone said, “Because it’s his response.”
"It was an effort to have Gary's answer come from his computer," Sanone told the Deseret News. "He's answering, I just don't have access to (his account)."
"I guess people can interpret what they want to interpret," Sanone said. "If you look at it, it's like I tried to give him the option of answering. But I can't access (his account), so what's my best thing? It's to say I've talked to Gary, which I did. So I don't know how you can say there was a cover-up there."
When asked how she got her response from Ott, Sanone said he was with her at the time she received the email.
“He almost always is in the office when I'm in the office. That would be really rare that he doesn't come in," she said.
However, in Sanone’s email, she wrote that “Erin probably knows he isn’t here today.” When a Deseret News reporter pointed that out to her, she said:
"Then I guess I had to call him. You're asking me to go back, what, four or five months?"
Dole, however, said she found Sanone’s response “odd,” but hasn’t spoken with her about it since.
“When I forwarded it to Karmen, I assumed it would be just like any other time in the past when I would include her in something. I anticipated she would have communication with Gary, which at that moment I (didn’t), that she would then be able to respond from herself and tell them what Gary wanted,” Dole told KSL.com. “I’ve actually never told her to respond as Gary or from Gary’s account.”
Both Dole and Sanone have access to Gary’s account and computer, and both have responded directly from his email, though Dole told KSL.com the last time she did so was in August 2016. Ott stopped using the computer himself a year or so before Dole was hired, she said.
Ott was recently admitted to a medical facility, according to his family’s attorney, but he continues to earn $190,000 in taxpayer-paid salary and benefits each year. Under state law, county officials can’t force him out of office.