WEST JORDAN — Though questions have swirled for nearly two years about Gary Ott’s declining health, exactly what ailment the former Salt Lake County recorder has suffered has remained unknown until Thursday.
Ott, who now resides at an unspecified medical facility, has been diagnosed with “not just Alzheimer’s, but stage 4 Alzheimer’s,” said Mary Corporon, an attorney representing Ott’s siblings in a legal battle with the former recorder’s girlfriend and former employee, Karmen Sanone.
According to testimony from medical experts Thursday during a court hearing over guardianship of Ott, he was showing signs of mental impairment much earlier. A neurologist testifying under oath also said he determined Ott had some form of progressive dementia back in October 2013.
Ott, a Republican, last campaigned for office in 2014 and was elected that November to serve a six-year term beginning in January 2015.
The diagnosis came to light in the legal battle between Ott’s family and Sanone on Thursday, shortly after 3rd District Judge Bruce Lubeck decided the case would be open to the public.
NEW: Attorney says #GaryOtt has stage 4 Alzheimer’s, which is why he was excused from court today #utpol
— Katie McKellar (@KatieMcKellar1) October 12, 2017
Lubeck’s order, in favor of a motion filed by several Utah media outlets, paves the way for an expected two days of testimony from multiple county employees and elected officials subpoenaed in the case.
Ott’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis was the reason he was excused from court Thursday, even though Lubeck said last month that he wanted to hear from Ott before proceeding.
For nearly two years, questions about Ott’s health has played out publicly after a Deseret News investigation into a bizarre incident in January 2016, when Ott was found stranded and wandering in rural Tooele County. Still, he remained in his elected office.
County officials grappled with how to address the situation because state law provides no mechanism to remove an elected official except if he or she commits certain crimes.
Last year, Ott collected nearly $190,000 in taxpayer-paid salary and benefits.
Ott eventually resigned in August after his family sought temporary emergency guardianship of him and struck a deal with Salt Lake County leaders that was later approved by Lubeck.
Utah journalists have filed a motion to prevent a state court from closing a hearing this week concerning former Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott.
Sanone, who has been identified as Ott’s girlfriend, fiancee or caretaker, has engaged in a lawsuit with Ott’s family, arguing she should be his guardian and conservator because he signed an advance health care directive in January 2015.
At issue at Thursday’s hearing is whether Ott had mental capacity issues when he signed that advance health care directive and whether that document should be valid. The hearing is scheduled to continue through Friday, if necessary.
Among those subpoenaed to testify are Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, Assessor Kevin Jacobs and Surveyor Reid Demman, all of whom serve in elected positions. Some former county employees also have been subpoenaed, including Ott’s former deputy Julie Dole.
Dole and Sanone have been accused by many of taking advantage of Ott to stay in their high-paying, appointed positions in the county recorder’s office. Both women have denied those accusations.
This story will be updated throughout the day.