Some might argue the entire polygamous trust case boils down to this: a man and his family are going to be kicked out of their home in the heart of Short Creek.
The case involves Guy Timpson, who for almost 27 years has been living with his family in a structure known as the Bishops Guesthouse. The building sits on the edge of Block 45 — a city block in the center of Colorado City, Ariz. — and belongs to the United Effort Plan Trust, a multi-million dollar trust that Utah took over in 2005 due to concerns about mismanagement.
Now the people who run the trust want to sell the entire city block — meaning Timpson’s time in the home is running out.
It’s a tough story, but it’s also a complicated one that defies easy answers and which will likely have lasting repercussions in the polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border.
The conflict began when Bruce Wisan — a court-appointed accountant who over sees the UEP — found someone to buy the city block. The buyer, Al Yarrish of nearby Centennial Park, wants to open a hardware store in a vacant building and agreed to pay $1.05 million for the property.
Wisan, in turn, would use that money to repay the state; last year Utah lawmakers approved a $5.6 million loan to keep the trust running. If Wisan returns $4 million by April he doesn’t have to return the rest.
The deal seemed like a win-win for everyone. Wisan made money for the trust and helped spur economic development in Short Creek. At the same time, an investor with ties to the region got a good deal on land and breathed new life into the town.
But for Timpson and his family, it was something else entirely: a disaster.
Timpson learned of the pending sale about two weeks ago. He was in Phoenix at the time, testifying in a federal court case. Within days, he filed an objection to the sale. In an email, Timpson explained that he has lived in the home for nearly three decades. He raised 10 children there. He spent more than $70,000 on the building, he wrote. Selling the home out from underneath him, Timpson argued, undermined the entire reason the state got involved with the trust in the first place, which was to protect trust beneficiaries like himself.
The potential sale, and Timpson’s objection, prompted a court hearing Friday. During the hearing, Brad Keogh of the Arizona attorney general’s office said Timpson was being “steamrolled” by the deal. Keogh also pointed out that Wisan has said he wouldn’t sell any occupied homes owned by the UEP.
In the end, Keogh asked the judge to postpone the sale for two weeks to give Timpson and Wisan a chance to work out a new occupancy deal.
But Wisan’s attorney Jeff Shields offered a different take on the story: For years, Timpson has been living rent-free in a home he doesn’t own. Shields went on to say that Timpson signed an occupancy agreement with the UEP — which requires him to pay monthly fees as well as property taxes — but never complied. In total, Timpson failed to pay about $20,000 in taxes and $6,100 in fees. He was essentially freeloading, Shields indicated.
Wisan and Shields also both said Friday they didn’t even know Timpson was living on the property.
Timpson countered that he had no idea he was supposed to be paying the taxes. And when he signed the occupancy agreement it was part of a stack of papers given to him by an FLDS Church leader; he didn’t fully realize what he was doing, he explained.
Shields and an attorney for Yarrish both asked the judge to approve the sale, saying delays could jeopardize the deal and torpedo efforts to pay back the state’s money.
Judge Denise Lindberg spoke slowly in the hearing, seemingly weighing what sounded like legitimate points for both sides. She chastised Timpson for not complying with his occupancy agreement but, apparently not wanting to sell the home out from underneath him, ultimately opted for a compromise: a one-week delay of the sale.
Afterward, Yarrish didn’t say that the delay would kill the deal, but added that it “makes it difficult” for him — he has a tenant lined up and he wants to get his hardware store operating by spring.
In any case, the end result is that Timpson is going to have to move. During and after Friday’s hearing he, Wisan and Yarrish stood out in the hall trying to hammer out a solution. One solution included an offer from Yarrish to let Timpson continue living in the home for up to two years. He would have to pay $100 per month in rent.
Another option is for Timpson to move into a different UEP-owned home. There is another home in the community that fits his needs, but it’s currently occupied and wouldn’t be ready for weeks or months, at best.
Timpson said Friday that he would probably opt for a combination of the two options, renting his current home from the new buyer then moving into another UEP-owned building when it becomes available.
In the meantime the case likely sets a precedent for what happens during future UEP land sales. As Friday’s hearing concluded, Lindberg expressed concern that if she sided with Timpson, others would come to the trust and make similar objections to future sales.
Finalists named for UEP board of trustees
P A 3rd District Court judge on Thursday released a list of 13 finalists seeking appointment to a board of trustees to manage the United Effort Plan Trust. Judge Denise Lindberg will decide if the board will be made up of five, seven or nine members, but also may decide to deny the necessity for a board, according to a press release from the Utah attorneys general’s office.
The 13 finalists are below:
M. Jvar Dutson
Thomas A. Holm
The public is encouraged to send comment on potential trustees to
Judge Denise P. Lindberg
450 S. State St.
Salt Lake City, UT 84020
Comments will be accepted for seven days after official notice of the finalists is published. Upon conclusion of the comment period, the court will arrange personal interviews in convenient locations around Utah and will announce the next steps in the process after the candidates are evaluated.