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In Response To Gary Ott Case, Utah Lawmakers Talk New Procedures For Removing Local Officials

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In response to the Salt Lake County Recorder’s declining mental health, Utah state lawmakers are considering new procedures to remove local officials from office.

Gary Ott, Salt Lake County recorder, has received more and more attention over the year following long absences, incoherent news interviews and increased scrutiny by Salt Lake County officials.

“We have provisions within the state constitution that provide for removal of Governor and Lt. Governor but we don’t have any provisions for removal of local officials,” said Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, who sponsored legislation in 2017 concerning the removal of incapacitated local officials. Her bill didn’t pass because of concerns over abuse of the proposed removal procedure.

With no formal modes of removal, Salt Lake County has relied on pressuring Ott to resign.

In a tweet, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said that calling for Ott’s resignation in June “started [a] recent chain of events [that’s] heading in a good direction.” As the Deseret News reports, a separation agreement between Salt Lake County and Ott’s siblings was approved on Friday.

While the county recorder’s case is resolved, the Legislature is considering how to go about removing public employees when deemed necessary during the interim.

“This is an issue that needs to be resolved in some form or fashion, so we’re working on what other pathways we might be able to take in terms of coming to a resolution in a bill that everyone can be comfortable passing,” Chavez-Houck said.

She plans to revisit the matter in 2018.

“We’re probably going to take a two-track approach to this,” she said “I’m running legislation to amend the state constitution to allow this process to occur because that was one of the main concerns from the local jurisdiction. And the secondary piece is some kind of law to legislate what that process would look like.”