SALT LAKE CITY — Amid mounting concerns about his health and work absence, conversations about Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott's resignation are beginning.
Karmen Sanone, Ott's office aide and apparent girlfriend or fiancee, told the Deseret News on Monday that Ott, 66, is considering retirement before the end of his current term, which ends in 2020.
The news came Monday as the Deseret News obtained new police reports through public records requests that show officers conducting welfare checks on Ott in North Ogden where Sanone lives.
Deputies sent Ott to a hospital in September after he was found "extremely disoriented" in Sanone's front yard, according to a Weber County sheriff's report.
Ott told deputies he was apparently frightened of Sanone, according to the report.
"Gary said Karmen is a big mean lady and that he didn't want anyone to tell her about this incident, as he was very scared of her," a deputy wrote. "Gary stated that if Karmen came home we would all be in danger. Gary wasn't able to describe why he felt this way about Karmen."
Ott couldn't provide an accurate birthdate and stated that "he may have dementia but was unable to elaborate," the report states. Ott also said "he had 'things' inside of his head and that sometimes they moved to his back as well."
Ott said he was on "several medications but was unable to tell me what they were or where they were in the home," the deputy wrote.
The county recorder was transported to a local hospital by ambulance while the deputy tried to locate Sanone. Eventually, after she was reached by phone several hours later, she told the deputy that when she left her house, she "didn't notice Gary acting strangely."
"Karmen explained that Gary does have dementia," the report states.
Sanone has previously declined to discuss Ott's health with the Deseret News.
When asked about the police report Monday, Sanone said: "This is not how the officer related the incident to me and Gary denies saying these things."
"I received a call from officer (Tyrel) Dalton saying he had picked Gary up walking along the road. He said Gary clearly knew where he was going but he drove him the (quarter) mile anyway," Sanone wrote in an email. "The officer asked me if Gary had dementia; I did not volunteer this information to him. However, since I was busy at the time and the officer indicated that there was no problem, I agreed that there could be some form of early dementia rather than trying to explain that Gary had a medical condition that often makes it hard for Gary to articulate what he wants to say."
Sanone added: "If the officer had believed Gary was confused and a danger to himself or from me, he certainly wouldn't have dropped him off."
Police were also called to conduct a welfare check on Ott a month ago on May 11.
North Ogden police were dispatched to Lee's Market, a grocery store near Sanone's home, after an employee called and reported that "an elderly gentleman acted confused and didn't know where he was at," a police report states.
"Gary said he doesn't remember things very well," the responding officer wrote. "I asked Gary if he wanted to be checked on by medical and he said 'no.' I asked Gary if I could give him a ride home and he said 'yes.' I gave Gary a ride home without any problems."
Some county employees, elected officials and Ott's sister have expressed concerns that Ott may be manipulated by his staff, including Sanone and Ott's chief deputy, Julie Dole, in order to keep their jobs. Both women deny those accusations.
Last week, the Deseret News published a report questioning Ott's well-being — including a 45-minute recorded conversation from early May in which Ott could not answer questions coherently, plus concerns from county workers who worry that Ott's attendance at his own office has become increasingly sporadic.
The News published its first investigative report in February 2016, detailing concerns that the longtime recorder's health could be deteriorating to the point that he may no longer be capable of doing his job.
Last week, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and other county leaders called for Ott's resignation — welcoming conversations with family members and those closest to Ott to discuss the terms.
Ott's sister, Kathy Chamberlain — who lives in southern Utah — said she and other members of Ott's family "didn't know anything" about the incidents described in the police reports.
"We had no idea," she said. "That definitely adds to our concerns about Gary."
Chamberlain said over the past several months, she has been unable to reach her brother by phone and that attempts to reach him have had to go through Sanone.
She said Ott's "physical welfare and mental state" are his family's top concern, and the incidents amplify her worries about her brother and fears that he's being "taken advantage of."
"It just breaks my heart," she said, adding that she hopes that Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill's investigation into Ott's well-being is being taken seriously.
Sanone said "for several weeks Gary has been considering the possibility of retiring" after a software program is fully in place in his office.
"He said once this program was in place and running, he had accomplished all that he had set out to do," she said in an email.
"Gary had made me contact a third party to confidentially reach out to the council to see if they had an appetite to consider an early retirement."
Salt Lake County GOP Chairman Jake Parkinson said he spoke with Sanone Monday, but he declined to elaborate on the conversation.
Other Salt Lake County Council members and their staff declined to comment.
McAdams extended an invitation to family members of Ott's family or others close to him to discuss the terms of his resignation, but it's not clear whether Sanone will have an influence over those negotiations or what her legal standing concerning Ott is.
Past court documents and police reports have identified Sanone as Ott's fiancee or wife, raising additional concerns of nepotism in the county recorder's office. The Deseret News, however, has not been able to locate a marriage certificate. Sanone has declined to discuss her personal relationship with Ott.
Chamberlain said Ott's family is interested in working with county officials to negotiate a retirement that will be in Ott's best interest.
"If he could just leave office with some dignity — but maybe it's too late for that," Chamberlain said. "But that's our hope that this can be resolved once and for all."