Vincent Barlow hasn’t been FLDS for two years, but during that entire time and for years before he never saw any religious discrimination in his town, he testified Thursday.
Barlow is the city manager of Hildale, Utah, one of two towns named in the Cooke family’s civil rights trial. The Cookes believe they were discriminated against and denied utilities because they were not members of the polygamous The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Barlow was the first witness called for the defense, after the Cookes’ attorneys wrapped up their case Thursday afternoon in U.S District Court for Arizona.
Barlow’s comment about the lack of discrimination in the community was among the most salient points of his testimony both because it contradicts the Cookes, and because Barlow himself is no longer a member of the area’s dominant church. Barlow explained that he left the FLDS Church about two years ago, when he already was serving as city manager, but in the time since neither the mayor nor the city council has tried to fire him.
Later, Barlow also said that during the most recent Hildale municipal elections, several candidates were in competitive election. That assertion flies in the face of others made by the Cookes’ witnesses claiming church leaders choose and appoint the people who serve in the local government.
One of the main points of the Cookes’ lawsuit is that the FLDS Church controls the local government and dictates the actions of municipal authorities.
Barlow later testified that the city’s water supply was finite, offering support to the idea that a shortage limited the number of new water hookups the city could offer.
That discussion segued into a series of questions about Pure Ph8, a water bottling company in the community. The Cookes’ attorneys have pointed to the company as a conspicuous incongruity in a town that supposedly had a water shortage.
Documents presented in court by Blake Hamilton, an attorney with Hildale, indicated the company used 264,000 gallons of water over a period of less than two years. It sounds like a lot of water, but Hamilton pointed out that it is actually less than the previous tenant who used the same water hookup.
Barlow also said the Cookes never paid for an electric hookup.
Barlow did not finish testifying Thursday and the Cookes’ attorneys did not yet have an opportunity to cross examine him. His testimony will continue next week.
In addition, one of the more interesting things discussed during Barlow’s testimony — at least for those interested in Short Creek — was a history of Hildale. The testimony included a PowerPoint timeline of the city beginning May 6, 1963, when the city held its first meeting. Other notable dates on the timeline included:
1963 • a town marshal was appointed.
March 7, 1964 • Hildale established a voting precinct.
1971 • public works director was appointed.
May 4, 1981 • Hildale was approved to operate a sewer system.
1982 • Hildale town hall completed.
1991 • Hildale becomes a “class 3 city,” moving from a town to a city based on population size. The city also creates the treasurer and recorder positions.
1996 • Twin City Water Authority is created.
2000 • Natural gas begins being distributed in the community.
2001-2002 • The local power plant shuts down due to rising costs of natural gas.
2009 • The local power plant is sold off. The city also created a city manager position and appointed Barlow appointed to fill it.
— Jim Dalrymple II