Polygamous trust case returns to Utah courtroom
Published: February 15, 2013 11:01AM
Updated: February 15, 2013 09:09AM
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Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune Thousands of members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints staged a mass gathering at Matheson Courthouse to show their opposition to the proposed sale of the farm and the dismantling of the United Effort Plan Trust in July 2009.

Reporter Jim Dalrymple II and photographer Trent Nelson are covering this morning’s court hearing concerning the state’s management of the United Effort Plan. Based on a new court filing, it appears the hearing will showcase a conflict over what to do with the UEP.

Here’s a review and primer.

• The United Effort Plan is a trust owning nearly all land in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. It was established to benefit members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Trust holdings, from homes to businesses to land, are estimated at $110 million.

• A group of young men kicked out of the FLDS sued in 2004. When the FLDS and their leader, Warren Jeffs, failed to answer the lawsuit, the entire UEP was put at risk.

• Fearful people could lose their homes and the UEP was being mismanaged, Utah 3rd District Court Judge Denise Lindberg placed the trust into receivership in 2005. The state of Utah became responsible for the trust with oversight by Lindberg. The judge appointed Salt Lake City accountant Bruce Wisan as the UEP fiduciary. The arrangement was to be temporary.

• Eight years later, the state still has control of the UEP. Lawsuits and obstinance by the FLDS have prevented Wisan from selling and distributing property. So have disagreements between Wisan and former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff about how or whether to distribute property and dissolve the trust.

• Meanwhile, the UEP has racked up huge debts, including $5.6 million owed to Wisan for managing the trust and defending it from lawsuits and millions of dollars in outstanding tax bills. The state of Utah, including the legislative branch which allocates money, has thus far refused to pay.

• That brings us to today’s hearing. The court docket bills it as a “1 hour exit strategy hearing.” But it looks like disputes remain. The attached court brief from Wisan’s attorneys say while there is discussion in the Legislature about paying the money, lawmakers are “not willing to pay the judgement unless the Fiduciary agrees to a number of additional provisions that the Fiduciary believes violate his fiduciary duties and create an untenable conflict by conditioning payment on termination of the probate proceedings.”

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle