Negotiations starting in UEP debt
Despite being at odds over a judge's order to pay more than $5.5 million in past-due bills, the Utah Attorney General's Office and the court-appointed administrator of a polygamous sect's property trust are starting to negotiate.
The office has already paid $275,000 toward four years of United Effort Plan debts owed to Bruce Wisan and his contractors, and Wisan said he's considering a proposal for additional payments on the debt that would also require him to make concessions.
"We've gotten something very, very recently. We haven't had a chance to digest it," Wisan said following a Tuesday court hearing.
The Attorney General's Office money would be repaid after legal challenges to the state takeover are resolved. If the takeover is upheld in court, Wisan would be able to sell UEP trust property and repay the taxpayer money.
But even as that conversation begins, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is fighting a court order to pay the $5.5 million. The state court judge last month ordered the office to pay within 90 days, and Shurtleff appealed directly to the Utah Supreme Court. Arguments are set for April 16.
"I think we've always been sympathetic, but we don't believe the judge has the authority to tell us ... you have to pay on a certain day," said Assistant Attorney General David Wolf.
Wisan was appointed to run the trust once controlled by the Warren Jeffs-led Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints after it was taken over by the state of Utah in 2005. Shurtleff's plan was for Wisan to be paid from trust assets, but since the sect began fighting the takeover in court four years ago, costs have mounted as sales of trust assets have been blocked. The largest portion of the debt is owed to attorneys.