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$5.5 M payment deadline looming in Utah polygamous property trust

Published July 31, 2012 11:46 pm

FLDS trust • Shurtleff fights order as he awaits state high court's ruling.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An accountant appointed to run a polygamous sect property trust once controlled by Warren Jeffs has agreed to hold off enforcing a judge's order requiring the state to pay more than $5.5 million in past-due bills — at least for now.

Wednesday marks the deadline for the payment from Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, but he is fighting the order. The Utah Supreme Court has yet to issue an opinion in the case, which was argued in June.

"We're going to have to come to some sort of an interim understanding," said trust administrator Bruce Wisan. He and state attorneys plan to file notice Wednesday that they have agreed to hold off payment until Aug. 31, said Utah Attorney General's Office spokesman Paul Murphy.

The money is owned primarily to attorneys for Wisan, a Salt Lake City accountant appointed as administrator of the United Effort Plan trust in 2005.

The $110 million trust holds almost all the land and properties in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah. It was taken over by the state amid allegations of mismanagement by Jeffs and other Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints trustees.

The sect started fighting the takeover in 2008, and Wisan has since been blocked from selling trust property to pay himself and his attorneys even as legal bills have grown.

Wisan says private appointees shouldn't have to shoulder the risk for an action that Shurtleff initiated.

"If it happened [prior to the recession], it wouldn't be as difficult as it is now," Wisan said. A 3rd District Court judge agreed, ordering Shurtleff to pay the past-due bills and setting an Aug. 1 deadline. But Shurtleff countered that Wisan was always supposed to be paid from the trust, not with taxpayer money. He appealed the judge's order to the Utah Supreme Court.

If the high court sides against Shurtleff, the Utah Legislature will have to meet and make a special appropriation to pay Wisan.

For now, "we're waiting for further clarification from Utah Supreme Court," said Murphy.

lwhitehurst@sltrib.com

Twitter: @lwhitehurst

The Polygamy Blog: http://www.sltrib.com/blogs/polygblog