Kingston web far reaching

Published May 14, 2006 12:00 am
Clan's businesses linked through the willing, unwilling
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MURRAY - A plastic red wagon sits behind a chain-link fence that surrounds a graveled industrial site where motorists pull off the 3900 South thoroughfare to buy bags of coal.

Mary Ann Kingston worked here, at Valley Coal Co., and lived in a small apartment behind a clapboard office after becoming a plural wife of her uncle, David Kingston.

He was a leader in the Davis County Cooperative Society, called the Order, associated with dozens of businesses that pay its members a type of company scrip that can be redeemed only at firms affiliated with the co-op.

David Kingston was 33. She was 16.

Mary Ann Kingston, now 25, claims in a lawsuit that clan leaders used the Order to set up an accounting system that enables them to siphon off corporate funds and use businesses to promote other injustices, including the sexual abuse of young girls. She names as defendants more than 200 clan members, who in turn have filed a countersuit claiming defamation and invasion of privacy. The lawsuits have yet to go to trial in 3rd District Court.

Ken Wallentine, chief of law enforcement with the Utah Attorney General's Office, said 173 Kingston-affiliated businesses operate in 10 Western states. Among them is the Co-op Mine, 140 miles away from the Murray coal yard where Mary Ann Kingston's uncle moved her so another wife could keep her from running away.

On Tuesday, a labor hearing had been scheduled concerning the Co-op Mine brought by the United Coal Workers of America on behalf of Latino miners who were fired after attempting to organize a union. A settlement, however, apparently has been reached.

Insights into the Order and the Co-op Mine are taken from depositions in a lawsuit brought by Mary Ann Kingston in August 2003 against 100 Kingston-affiliated businesses, including the Co-op Mine, and the testimony of clan workers in the nearly 3-year-old case that was brought before the National Labor Relations Board.

Feelings over the labor dispute have been so intense that Latino miners traveled in 2004 to Salt Lake City to support other Kingston offspring embroiled in an unrelated child-abuse case.

"This thing has brought up issues of abuse of children, but the biggest abuse goes on at businesses, and the biggest is at the Co-op Mine in Huntington," mine worker Bill Estrada said at the abuse hearing involving John Daniel Kingston, Mary Ann Kingston's father. Court testimony indicated Kingston had 110 children with 14 women.

Mary Ann Kingston's story begins in 1995 when her parents took her out of Mount Jordan Middle School after the ninth grade. She was first put to work at one of the clan's flagship affiliated businesses, Standard Restaurant Equipment Co. at 3500 S. West Temple in South Salt Lake.

Sales at the company top $50 million annually, according to a 2006 Dun & Bradstreet report. Although its headquarters are in Salt Lake City, it also has outlets in Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; Lakewood, Colo.; Albuquerque, N.M, and Las Vegas.

Twelve other corporate offices are listed at Standard Restaurant Equipment, which also doubles as a church meeting house.

It was at Standard Restaurant Equipment that Mary Ann Kingston's uncle took notice of her, she said in her lawsuit. By the fall of 1997 her parents, John Daniel Kingston and his second wife and half-sister, Susan Nelson, were relaying clan members' dreams about her becoming her uncle's 15th wife.

Three months after the wedding, Mary Ann Kingston alleged, her uncle came to her bedroom and while her mother and siblings slept at their Sandy home, removed her clothing, ignored her embarrassment and raped her. She fled and eventually telephoned police.

Her uncle served four years in prison on charges of incest and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. Her father, who according to court records belt whipped her after she ran away, was jailed for 28 weeks. Both have served their sentences.

Both men also are sons of the late prophet John Ortell Kingston, estimated to have 65 children and 13 wives, including a niece and half sister. In a deal that cost the family no probate taxes after his death in 1987, John Ortell Kingston, deeded his estate to his church, which son Paul now directs, and his vast land holdings to dozens of corporations, which his heirs now manage, according to his will.

The corporate boards are controlled by a few elite leaders, mostly from the interrelated Kingston clan, who oversee "mind-boggling" amounts of money, said law enforcement chief Wallentine. At the bottom of the affiliated businesses, he added, are child laborers.

Central to these businesses is the Order, whose accounting office is likened to a biblical storehouse, according to a written lesson clan members are expected to learn.

"It says the very important part of the Order centers around the storehouse," said Order member Kimly Mangum in a March 2004 deposition. "It says the accounting system that I use, everything that I spend and everything that I earn, goes through that [Order] record."

Co-op Mine attorney Carl Kingston said in a July 2004 hearing there is no legal connection between the mine and the Order.

Mary Ann Kingston charges in her lawsuit that members' pay is processed through the Order, which maintains a system to debit or credit members' accounts. Wages are paid in "units," while deductions are taken for rent, mortgage payments, business expenses and 10 percent tithing. In a deposition involving the labor case, Order member Mangum called the 10 percent charge "an accounting fee."

Former clan worker Lu Ann Cooper has testified in the labor case that members holding a blue-colored card enjoyed unlimited credit. Those with green cards had spending limits. Yellow cardholders were "those on the edge of getting a green card."

Cooper, a daughter of the late prophet John Ortell Kingston, said she began working for the clan in the mid-1990s after she turned 12. When she was 15, she was married to a 32-year-old first cousin who later served jail time for having sex with a minor, according to court records.

"I was one of the kids that helped put the Order people's personal statements and business statements together," she testified in a deposition in the labor case in July 2004.

Memberships have been extended to 50 families, who exchange all or part of their holdings for an interest in the Order, according to the Dun & Bradstreet report. Members with no property or holdings are employed by the cooperative, the report said. Assets are estimated at about $3 million.

The Order lists its business license at 53 W. Angelo in South Salt Lake, as does the mine's corporate headquarters, the mine's parent company, C.W. Mining and C.O.P Coal Development, which leases its property to the underground mine.

Also in the 1,100-square-foot building at 53 W. Angelo are the corporate headquarters for Kingston's Latter Day Church of Christ, 14 corporate offices for clan-affiliated businesses, and companies and individuals owning 71 parcels of land. In addition, some officers listing their addresses here are the Order's large affiliated gaming company, Mountain Coin Distributors, and its parent firm, World Enterprises Inc., with outlets in Las Vegas and seven other western cities. Sales total $40 million annually.

No telephone numbers can be tracked to the 53 W. Angelo building. Attorney Carl Kingston said telephones aren't needed there because the offices are used mainly for bookkeeping purposes.

Unlike some other Kingston businesses, the Co-op Mine also employs nonmembers during its round-the-clock shifts. When extra workers are needed, members are asked at church meetings to volunteer, according to testimony in the labor case.

More than 70 percent of the 220 workers at the mine are members of the Order, state investigator Ron Barton testified in the labor case. Ties abound. For instance, former mine manager Wendell Owen has at least nine children and two grandchildren employed at the mine. His son, Charles Reynolds, who within the past couple of years replaced him as manager, has 89 cousins and three in-laws who work at the mine, in addition to two siblings who are supervisors, according a December 2004 ruling by B. Allen Benson, regional director for the National Labor Relations Board.

Unlike clan workers, Latino miners did not hold accounts with the Order.

In fact, former Order worker Cooper, who testified she prepared member statements for 100 different businesses, said clan workers received only check stubs - not paychecks - that went into the credit/debit card system to be used exclusively at Davis Cooperative businesses.

The existence of the card system was confirmed in the labor case by Owen, a director of the Davis Cooperative for the past 30 years, although he added that members are not told where to shop.

At the Co-op Mine, clan workers actually were paid substantially less than their non-member counterparts, payroll records showed. The difference, on average, was 33 percent less for full-time Order employees and 21 percent less for other clan workers, but they did receive more latitude in their schedules.

The 2004 labor ruling determined that clan mine workers generally are relatives of present and early members of the Order, founded during The Great Depression. New members are accepted by the approval of the general membership, but it is a rare occurrence. In a 2004 deposition in Mary Ann Kingston's lawsuit, Order member Mangum testified that he knew of no outsider becoming a member in the past 25 years.

Paul Kingston, the church leader whose followers consider him to be their prophet, assigns each member a ranking in the hierarchy if they have demonstrated sufficient loyalty. He is No. 1, with the next in line for the Order leadership being No. 2, and so on. During a deposition in the labor case, clan worker Nevin Pratt confirmed that members are assigned numbers for the Order's leadership ranks.

Member Mangum testified that Order principles are based on the Golden Rule. On cross-examination, he read from a lesson to members that sums up what parents should teach their children about their obligations to the Davis Cooperative: "Teach him to think what he can do for the Order. Not what the Order can do for him."


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