Elections Office tells Dole to remove recycled endorsements from Facebook; Dole hasn’t indicated whether she’ll comply

The Utah Elections Office has asked acting Salt Lake County Recorder Julie Dole to remove a series of old endorsements she’s recycling on Facebook, but so far she hasn’t complied.

Beginning Sunday, Dole started posting a series of endorsements she received in 2011, six years ago, when she was running for Salt Lake County GOP Chair. The posts ask “What has changed?” between then and now, then go on to post a quote from the endorsee. 

Some of the people who gave those endorsements in the past have asked, or even demanded, Dole remove the posts because they have withdrawn their support of her in the wake of the scandal surrounding former Recorder Gary Ott’s failing health. Dole and Ott’s former assistant/girlfriend Karmen Sanone have been accused of hiding Ott’s failing mental condition in order to keep their jobs.

Mark Thomas, Director of Elections for Utah, says they’ve received multiple complaints about Dole’s social media activity and contacted her about removing the posts.

“She indicated to me that her Facebook posts weren’t meant to imply an endorsement for this election or any election,” said Thomas. “I told her that regardless of her intent, the posts did imply that person’s endorsement. I added there are some individuals who asked her to remove those posts and she should withdraw them.

Thomas says Dole then asked Thomas to communicate that with her via email. Thomas says she has not replied since that exchange.

One person who has complained to the elections office about Dole’s postings is Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City. Thatcher was supportive of Dole when she sought the Salt Lake County GOP Chair in 2011 but has since withdrawn that endorsement. 

Shortly after Dole posted Thatcher’s picture and a quote from 2011 on her campaign page, Thatcher wrote “Julie, this is grossly unethical. Please cease and desist any efforts to imply my support for your current campaign.”

As of this writing, Dole has not removed the post about Thatcher.

State law prohibits candidates from including “the name of any person as an endorser or supporter in any political publication without the express consent of that person.”

Thomas says when a candidate publishes an endorsement of sorts on Facebook, it’s still a publication, so what Dole is doing could conceivably lead to a criminal complaint. However,  the infraction is just a class B misdemeanor.

“One could argue you are publishing something when it’s on Facebook. This is something that’s a criminal violation, but it would be up to a prosecutor to decide whether to pursue that further,” said Thomas.

Late Monday, Dole posted a disclaimer on her Facebook site that said the quotes shared on the page “in no way imply a current endorsement.” Thomas says that still doesn’t absolve her from having to remove the posts if asked.

“We asked her to respond as to how she’s going to proceed with this. You still have the people who have given their endorsement and pulled them back. Whether if it’s for this election or a very old election, she needs to pull these posts down if asked,” he said.