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While maintaining control over Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott's government email account, Ott's aide earlier this year fretted over how to make it look like Ott — rather than she — was responding to a query from the mayor's office, newly released documents show.

"I am not sure how to respond so this looks as if it is coming from Gary's computer," Ott's secretary, Karmen Sanone, wrote Chief Deputy Recorder Julie Dole in a March 2017 email chain discussing how to respond to a communication from Deputy Mayor Erin Litvack.

"I guess I can access his account with his password but Erin probably knows he isn't here today," Sanone continued. "I parked underneath today and Maren Slaugh and a couple other people from the Mayor's office saw me."

That same month Dole officially took over Ott's laptop, telling IT employee Jun Li that the computer should now be assigned to Dole and set up for her in-office and remote use.

Two months earlier, Dole had emailed Li telling her that "Gary has chosen not to use his computer, though we keep it available in case he changes his mind."

These and hundreds of other pages of emails and documents, obtained by The Tribune through an open-records request, appear to confirm what has long been evident: Ott's role in running the office or providing strategic direction is minimal at best.

Given his aides' access to and control of his account, it's difficult to determine the authenticity of the relatively few emails that have been sent from his account in recent years, though Dole and Sanone say Ott has told them what he wants communicated.

"I've never sent an email from Gary without his absolute understanding and approval," Dole said.

After Sanone wrote Dole of her concerns about making an email appear as though it came from Ott, Dole responded: "I meant to respond from you [Sanone], having spoke [sic] to Gary," Dole said. "I think everyone knows that Gary does not email."

Communication chain • The documents show emails sent to Ott automatically show up in Dole's inbox whether or not she is copied in on the correspondence. She then regularly forwards the emails to Sanone and the two discuss the matter at hand, the emails show.

The two appear to handle decisions ranging from major — such as development of a new controversial software program — to the most mundane.

For instance, in May, a staffer for Mayor Ben McAdams asked county elected officials if they were interested in joining him in various parades this summer.

The response, Sanone wrote, would be as follows: "If he decides to do parades he will do a separate entry as he has done in the past."

In one email memo to herself, Dole wrote: "Cancelled [sic] Gary Hair Appointment..."

Ott's health has publicly deteriorated to the point where his family went to court to obtain legal guardianship and physically retrieved him from Sanone's custody with the help of law enforcement in Weber County late last month, following reports of missed bills and multiple interactions where police were called to assist Ott in recent months.

Ott was in an undisclosed medical facility as of last week, yet he remains the elected county recorder, drawing $190,000 in salary and benefits. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill's office is investigating the office, but county leaders have so far been frustrated that there appears to be no legal means to force Ott's resignation.

Top aides • The documents show the morning after Ott's Nov. 4, 2014, election, Dole wrote Salt Lake County human resources to say that Ott wanted to appoint Sanone as his exempt secretary with broad authority to speak publicly for him — effective the following day. Dole had hired onto the office the previous March — one week before the candidate-filing period.

Both women worked on Ott's campaign, with Dole listed on disclosures as the campaign manager.

As of the latest report on Utah's transparency website, Dole draws an annual salary and benefits of $190,291, while Sanone receives a compensation package of $70,348.

Every indication from the documents obtained seems to support the view that Dole is running the recorder's office from top to bottom.

In a description of her duties she sent to herself in May 2015, Dole wrote, "I act in [Ott's] stead when he is unavailable, and at the direction of the Recorder I may oversee the personnel, operations and budget for the Recorders Office."

Sanone, meanwhile, has been helping control Ott's finances, according to Sanone and attorneys involved in an ongoing court case over his guardianship. Two months after being hired as Ott's secretary, Sanone said Ott signed a document establishing her as his preferred guardian should he need one in the future, attorneys said in court.

Since that time, Sanone has frequently communicated with Dole about tasks related to running the office. Sanone has responded to county staff about the office budget and lobbied the Legislature about bills, tasks Sanone and Dole say are normal for the position.

Sanone maintained she wrote emails on Ott's behalf because he's "never been a great typist."

She said her email response to Litvack showed she didn't know how to respond.

"What I was saying is I don't know how to respond to this," Sanone said in an interview Wednesday.

She said emails showing she lobbied lawmakers on behalf of the office and corresponded with other county officials about budgeting was part of her job as exempt secretary.

"That's part of my job, to interact with and use the jargon [other government agencies] want," Sanone said. "Budgeting would always be part of that. ... That's part of the position."

The emails also show Sanone emailed herself in May 2016 a document titled "Gary Ott Trust Outline."

"That was a personal document that Gary had me draw up and take to an attorney," Sanone said. "That should have been redacted" from documents provided to the newspaper.

After weeks describing herself as Ott's "longtime friend," Sanone said Wednesday the two are a couple, which she said explains why she was helping with his finances. She said, however, they never "co-mingled" their money.

Twitter: @TaylorwAnderson

— Taylor Stevens and Dan Harrie contributed to this article