Polygamous trust making money, cops still a hassle, report says
United Effort Plan fiduciary Bruce Wisan has filed his annual report. On the whole, the report is upbeat.
Wisan described 2013 as a "transitional year" in which progress was made. The UEP, of course, is the trust holding much of (but a decreasing amount) of the property in Hildale, Utah, and Colordao City, Ariz.
Here are some of the important points:
• Wisan got paid: In the report, Wisan describes the state paying the trust, and that’s not necessarily inaccurate. But the sticking point for the Legislature was that money it was ordered to pay to the UEP was mostly going to go to Wisan and his attorneys. The Legislature ponied up in 2013 and loaned $5.69 million. This isn’t in the report, but Wisan met an April 1, 2014, deadline to repay $4 million of the loan. (More on that below.) As a result, the other $1.69 million will be forgiven.
• Fewer lawsuits: Wisan had long complained that one reason his fees were accumulating was that he kept getting sued, and he had to hire lawyers to defend the suits. Wisan has received favorable rulings in Utah state courts and at the federal level, lessening the litigation.
• Property has been sold: This item is connected to the previous two. Some lawsuits were filed preventing Wisan from selling UEP property, but at least some of those have been resolved. Wisan last month sold a 450-acre stretch of land known as Berry Knoll for $650,000. Plans are in the works to sell another piece of property for $1.05 million. Selling the property allowed Wisan to meet this month’s deadline.
• Some still don’t like Wisan: Wisan’s report notes there remains hostility toward him with some people still refusing to pay the occupancy fees on UEP homes. (Depending on your point of view, those fees are either akin to rent or home-owner association dues.) "Demand letters" were sent in 2013 to occupants of four parcels in Hildale, the report says, ordering them to pay the fees and property taxes. The report says more letters will be sent in 2014. The UEP, Wisan says, was owed $4.18 million in back occupancy fees at the end of 2013. At the end of 2012, it was $3.36 million. Wisan also says there are reports that FLDS Church leaders are collecting the $100-a-month occupancy fees and not forwarding them to the UEP.
• Hildale and Colorado City are to be subdivided: On page 9, Wisan reminds readers the goal of the reformed UEP is the distribution of property to beneficiaries. To do that, the report says, the property in Hildale and Colorado City must be subdivided. Progress was made in subdividing the Hildale property, in part because a lawsuit opposing the dividing was resolved by a St. George judge, but Colorado City government is not cooperating, Wisan implies.
• The marshalls are still a problem: "Lawlessness in the communities persists," Wisan writes on page 15. He describes the towns’ marshalls as still refusing to investigate crimes and enforce lawful orders. The report says the "situation is changing somewhat" due to the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against the towns. That lawsuit is similar to one filed by the Cooke family. Last month a jury issued a verdict giving $5.2 million to the Cookes.
Over the weekend, Wisan and I traded emails. He explained the marshalls have regressed since the report was filed and the Phoenix trial ended.
"...they are every bit as bad or worse than they were before," Wisan’s email said.
Click here to see how this compares to the 2013 report.