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A 3rd District Court judge ruled that the family of Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott will be his legal guardian, at least temporarily, as the embattled elected official endures an ongoing public struggle with mental illness, according to a recent police report from Weber County.
The ruling shows the court is considering handing the power to remove Ott from office to his siblings. Judge Mark Kouris has scheduled a July 14 hearing in the matter, and a Salt Lake County Council member said it's a matter of time before discussions about Ott's resignation begin.
"I've had general discussions with" Ott's family about his eventual resignation from office, Councilman Richard Snelgrove said. "It's not a question of if, but when."
The deterioration of Ott's mental health has publicly unfolded over the past 18 months and has perplexed county and state officials who have sought a way to remove him from office and take him out of the spotlight. Numerous public documents and police reports indicate Ott has trouble forming coherent sentences and often doesn't recognize his family and friends.
"I'm glad to see things falling into place where Gary is going to get the care from loved ones, with the approval of the court, that he needs here in the twilight of his life," Snelgrove said.
Police in Weber County twice responded to calls about Ott from concerned bystanders in recent months.
The latest incident occurred in a Walmart parking lot shortly after the court temporarily ruled in Ott's family's favor.
Ott's sister called Harrisville police on June 28 to report that a judge granted her guardianship over the 66-year-old man, who was found sitting in a Ford F-350 at a Walmart parking lot.
Ott was in the truck awaiting Karmen Sanone, the recorder's secretary whom he identified as his fiancee in a December 2010 court filing. While Sanone was inside shopping, police say, Ott was in the car in 91-degree heat with the window halfway open. His sister, Kristine Williams, called police to notify them she wanted to leave with Ott and had the court's permission to do so.
The officer wrote in his report he persuaded Ott to exit the truck and leave with Williams after she told police he was missing for several days.
Two days before the Walmart incident, Sanone told The Tribune she was driving around Salt Lake City with Ott in the car. She said she intended to do "whatever Gary wanted to do," in the court matter, though numerous available records show his friends and family believe he has a "severe" mental illness and Harrisville police wrote he didn't recognize his family.
"Gary would keep repeating himself and [lose] his train of thought," the Harrisville officer wrote in his "found person" police report. "Gary could not visually identify his sister Kristine who was standing right in front of him."
When Sanone returned to the truck, she told police Ott was waiting in the vehicle because he'd been in the news and she was afraid he'd be recognized.
She "also advised that they had been in an on again off again relationship over the last ten years and that they were living in North Ogden," according to the report.
The police report, first reported on by the Deseret News, was the first indication that the court had ruled in favor of Ott's family in its quest to obtain the power to make all his legal decisions for him. The court proceedings are private, though basic information in the docket is public.
"If you have a temporary guardianship and conservatorship you have the opportunity to do whatever is in his best interest," said Sam Sorensen, a family law attorney. "That's kind of the question, whether [resignation is] in his best interest or not. It would probably have to be the determination of the court."
The public docket shows Sanone likely tried to become a party in the suit but was rebuffed by the court. Sanone's name was mentioned in a Monday filling. "Karmen Sanone is not included as an interested party in this matter and needs to file a Motion to Intervene," the docket reads.
While Sanone and Ott apparently were engaged before his condition worsened, there is no indication they ever married. She recently backed away from any indication they were in a relationship, saying only they were "longtime friends."
Utah law gives priority to family before friends if there is a dispute in a guardianship case, attorneys say.
The Ott family attorney, Mary Corporon, did not return a request for comment.