SALT LAKE CITY — It's official: Adam Gardiner has been sworn in as the new Salt Lake County recorder, lifting a cloud of scandal that has lingered over the office after questions about former Recorder Gary Ott's failing health surfaced and accusations that top staffers were hiding his condition.
"The storm that has embroiled the recorder's office is now over," County Councilman Richard Snelgrove said at Friday morning's special swearing-in ceremony. "The bright future of the recorder's office lays ahead."
In a quick, specially scheduled meeting the morning after a GOP special election Thursday night, the County Council unanimously ratified the county Republican Party's appointment of Gardiner, of West Jordan, to replace Ott and his former chief deputy and brief acting recorder, Julie Dole.
"We all know the issues that have been going on in the recorder's office, and I think it's time for us to put those behind us," Gardiner said. "And I think it's really time we focus on the next year and the next few years."
Dole, who had been rejected by fellow Republicans the night before in her bid to replace her boss, was present during the ceremony Friday and congratulated Gardiner with a handshake.
Dole had been acting recorder since Aug. 1, the day Ott's judge-approved resignation took effect. She, along with Ott's office aide and girlfriend/caregiver, Karmen Sanone, has been accused by county officials, employees and others of hiding Ott's condition to keep her high-paying, deputy appointment in the recorder's office. Both women have denied those accusations.
Dole has insisted she never hid Ott's condition, saying she had no right, as Ott's employee, to speak out about his health and private life.
Sanone submitted her resignation this month, though Dole terminated her the day Ott's resignation took effect.
Dole's role as acting recorder ended the moment of Gardiner's swearing-in. Gardiner, who represents West Jordan in the Utah House, said he does not intend to offer her any position in the recorder's office.
"It's expected," Dole said. "That's not a shocker."
Dole said she cleaned out her office Thursday night with the assistance of county security. She offered to help Gardiner with any questions he might have as he makes his transition.
In the 17 days she was the acting recorder, Dole changed signs in the office and on the county website to specify her as the recorder. A portrait of Ott, who had been recorder since 2001, was removed from the office on Dole's first day, and a portrait of her was hung in its place. That portrait was removed Friday.
Last year, Dole and Ott each made nearly $190,000 in taxpayer-paid salary and benefits.
After Gardiner's swearing-in, Belinda Rae Hicks, assistant division administrator within the recorder's office, said having a new recorder will "lift a cloud off that's been over us for a long time."
"It's going to be a big morale booster to finally have this saga over," Hicks said. "Like (Gardiner) said, we can have a new day. We can start maybe cleaning some stuff up, get more employees happy to be at work, and not have everybody nervous every time a reporter comes in."
The way Dole and Sanone "handled things" has had a "big impact" on morale within the recorder's office, she said.
The two woman ran Ott's campaign in 2014, Hicks said, and his presence within the office started to dwindle as early as a few months after his re-election — a claim that has been shared by other county employees since the Deseret News began investigating Ott's health in January 2016.
"There's just been a lot of secretive things they've done," Hicks said. "They weren't very open."
With a new leader comes some uncertainty from staff members, she said, adding that she hopes Gardiner will take time to get to know the staff before making any major changes.
Hicks, who said she's worked in the office for 18 years, said it will be a refreshing change for employees to have an elected leader after years of reporting to a chief deputy.
"It's been a very long time," she said. "It will be nice to have that person to talk to if you disagree with the chief deputy. We haven't had a recourse."
Gardiner said he plans to interview all recorder's office employees before deciding whether he needs to "reshuffle" the office. He said he already has a person in mind for his chief deputy but declined to disclose that, saying he'll announce it during Tuesday's County Council meeting.
County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton said Dole's access to county technology was cut off Thursday night after the GOP vote, and Friday's swearing-in ceremony was scheduled immediately after to speed up the leadership transition.
"We felt with all of the drama surrounding the office that it would be best for our employees and for everyone else involved to make the transition as quickly as possible," Newton said.