Signs point to the state of Utah trying to return control of a polygamous trust to residents on the Utah-Arizona border.
At a hearing set for Tuesday before 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg, attorneys from the Utah and Arizona attorney generals’ offices and the fiduciary appointed to manage the United Effort Plan (UEP) are expected to present a plan in which Lindberg eventually would appoint a board to manage the UEP.
The UEP holds nearly all land in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., which are homes of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which holds polygamy as a religious tenet.
The state took control of the UEP in 2005 out of concern it was being mismanaged by the FLDS and its leader, Warren Jeffs. The plan that is expected to be presented Tuesday figures to give some of those followers of Jeffs an opportunity to sit on a reformed governing board.
Under a revised charter for the UEP, board candidates must demonstrate their independence — from everybody — before Lindberg approves them to serve.
If Lindberg and the attorneys reach agreement Tuesday, it’s expected to encourage the Utah Legislature to allocate $5.7 million owed to Bruce Wisan, the accountant Lindberg appointed to manage the UEP. The payment to Wisan would be a loan, with the state receiving a lien against UEP property.
As recently as December, it appeared the Utah attorney general’s office was more inclined to abolish the UEP and sell its assets with UEP beneficiaries receiving credits that could be applied to an auction price. But instead, the attorney general’s office has signed onto the governing-board strategy. John Swallow became attorney general in January. He previously was the chief deputy for Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
Not everyone is pleased with the idea of a board managing the UEP.
Roger Hoole, an attorney who has represented people who have been kicked out of or fled the FLDS, has said the UEP should be abolished and its holdings distributed to people who live or have lived in the twin towns. Hoole said he doubts anyone in Hildale and Colorado City can be independent with so many competing religious agendas to maintain control of the current and former FLDS members and properties. Also, Hoole said, anyone accepting a board position would be susceptible to lawsuits once Lindberg terminates the state’s oversight and protection. That could mean litigation over decisions about who receives a certain house or lot. Only someone with a desire to control the community for their own benefit would be willing to accept that risk, Hoole believes.
"I don’t think the court will be able to find or approve trustees who can serve independently," Hoole said.
UEP holdings have been valued at $110 million.
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