The contest to replace retired Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott has taken a bizarre turn as acting Recorder Julie Dole is dragging out six-year old endorsements as part of her campaign to hang on to that job.
Dole stirred up a hornet’s nest on social media over the weekend by dredging up six-year-old endorsements from when she was running for Salt Lake County GOP Chair and repurposing them to sound like they were for her current quest to become the permanent replacement for Salt Lake County Recorder. Many of those previous endorsers have either withdrawn their support for Dole or have remained neutral in the race to replace Ott. Some of those Dole is recycling endorsements from are even running against her in Thursday’s election.
One such person is Melvin Nimer. Dole dug up his endorsement of her from 2011 and posted it on Sunday, without mention that he is running against her.
When reached for comment, Nimer told UtahPolicy.com, “It is very unfortunate that someone that I have always considered a friend, had stooped so low as to try and create public sympathy for her situation, most of which she created herself, when all she really had to do was to tell the truth from the beginning.”
Dole is one of a plethora of candidates in the mix to replace Ott following his August 1 resignation. In a Facebook exchange on Dole’s post about his previous endorsement, Nimer said he had withdrawn his support for Dole partially because she was censured by the Salt Lake County GOP last year for allegedly covering up Ott’s condition. He’s also one of Dole’s opponents in the race to become the next County Recorder, so it would be odd for him to endorse Dole now.
Dole is one of the central figures in the drama surrounding Gary Ott. Dole, along with Ott’s former secretary and girlfriend/fiancee Karmen Sanone, has been accused of covering up Ott’s failing mental condition to hang on to their jobs. Emails show that Dole and Sanone had control of Ott’s email account and tried to make it look like Ott was actually running the office. A report from the office of Utah Auditor John Dougall concluded Ott was not in financial control of the office since 2014, lending credence to allegations that Dole was completely running the office as Ott’s health failed. To be fair, other audits showed that the office did not suffer under Dole’s direction.
Dole did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Another person who had endorsed Dole in 2011 but has since reconsidered their position is former Utah Rep. Fred Cox (R-West Valley City). Cox tells UtahPolicy.com he did not take kindly to Dole’s repurposing of his prior endorsement.
“The public was deceived in 2014 apparently by Julie to get Gary Ott elected. Since no one seems to be willing to endorse her she is now implying fake ones as well,” said Cox.
Cox notes he has not officially endorsed anyone in the recorder’s race, but he’s sure his vote will not go toward Dole at Thursday’s election.
Dole has also recycled old endorsements from current office holders like Sen. Daniel Thatcher (R-West Valley City), Salt Lake County Council Chair Steve DeBry and County Councilman Max Burdick. Burdick is also seeking to replace Ott as recorder.
Additionally, Dole dusted off the endorsement from long-time Republican Barbara Stallone. Stallone is none too pleased that Dole is implying her support in Thursday’s election.
“Last time I checked, it is common courtesy, when using someone as a reference, to ask their permission,” said Dole. “Julie has shown her true colors once again. I’m disappointed with her glaring lack of character.”
Nimer, Cox, and Stallone told UtahPolicy.com that they had not given Dole permission to re-use their old endorsements. Others who had their old endorsements posted on Facebook by Dole have asked her to take them down in the comments below those posts, but Dole has not yet complied.
Salt Lake County GOP Chair Jake Parkinson says he’s received multiple complaints about Dole’s deceptive campaign tactics, but there’s not much he can do.
“Is it questionable? You bet. I’m not an attorney, so I’m not sure she’s violating any laws,” said Parkinson.
He added unless Dole breaks any laws, there’s not much they can do about it.
“Every candidate gets to run their campaign however they want to. That’s the beauty of this. Our central committee members are smart, and they’ll be able to sort this out however they see fit,” he added.
Dole’s questionable campaign activity might run afoul of state election law, but since it’s Facebook, Dole may be in the clear. When it comes to endorsements, Utah Code says:
“A person may not, in order to promote the success of any candidate for nomination or election to any public office, or in connection with any question submitted to the voters, include or cause to be included the name of any person as endorser or supporter in any political advertisement, circular, poster, or publication without the express consent of that person.”
However, in regards to that particular slice of code, it’s unclear whether posting false endorsements on Facebook constitutes a “political advertisement” or a “publication,” so she’s probably okay as technology is moving faster than state regulations can keep up with.
Salt Lake County Republicans will meet on Thursday evening at Jordan High School to pick a permanent replacement for Ott. The winner will fill that office until the 2018 election.