Jul 17, 2008

5th District Court will take up the actions against residents who don't want to pay $100 a month fee

Brooke Adams
Salt Lake Tribune
July 17, 2008 

FLDS: Judge won't block evictions

A 3rd District Court judge refused to issue a temporary restraining order that would have halted plans to evict hundreds of people from their homes in the polygamous Utah-Arizona border communities of Hildale and Colorado City.

    Judge Denise Lindberg ruled Tuesday there were factual and procedural problems with a request from attorneys for the families. Those facing evictions are current or former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    Lindberg said that any eviction proceeding would be heard in 5th District Court, not by her. She also said the attorneys had not given proper notice of the action nor filed a bond required for all restraining orders.

    The judge said, however, that she would look at allegations of improper conduct by the accountant overseeing the sect's United Effort Plan Trust if brought before her separately.

    "The good news to our clients is that there is not imminent danger of them being removed without further litigation in the 5th District Court," said Bret Rawson, an attorney who, with Peter Stirba, represents those who received eviction notices. "We now have to determine [if] we ask the court to rule on the remainder of last night's filing or raise the issue again referencing facts in that filing."

    Jeff Shields, attorney for court-appointed fiduciary Bruce R. Wisan, said some residents have already moved to avoid eviction.

    "We're working with them if they're genuine and have issues," Shields said.

    On Tuesday, the attorneys charged that Wisan, appointed three years ago by Lindberg to manage the United Effort Plan Trust, was harming the beneficiaries of the trust.

    The trust holds virtually all land in the towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., as well as property in Bountiful, British Columbia. The communities are the traditional homes of the FLDS sect.

    Wisan had given demand notices to residents of 57 dwellings in the twin towns that gave them until Tuesday to pay or make arrangements to pay a $100 a month assessment fee.


Side Bar:

UEP at a glance     
    The United Effort Plan Trust was officially organized in 1942 by a fundamentalist Mormon group known at the time as The Work - now the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    It was designed to protect property holdings and, through a communal effort, support members with plural families.

    The property trust holds virtually all land and buildings in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., formerly known as Short Creek; it also includes property in Bountiful, British Columbia. The holdings have an estimated value around $110 million.

    The UEP Trust was placed under court management in May 2005 after the FLDS failed to defend its assets against several lawsuits that alleged wrongdoing by trustees and church leaders. Salt Lake City accountant Bruce R. Wisan has managed it since then.

    In March 2007, Wisan received a $8.8 million default judgment against the FLDS church and former trustees, a debt he has partially satisfied by seizing a farm formerly operated by the sect. Still owed: $5 million or so, with interest.

    Wisan now works with an appointed advisory board that includes: Carolyn Jessop; Seth Cooke; Don Timpson; Katie Cox; Deloy Bateman; Robert Huddleston; and Margaret Cooke. With the exception of Huddleston and Timpson, the rest are former FLDS members.

    - Brooke Adams  


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