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Polygamous trust giving homes to 26 people

Published August 10, 2014 12:21 pm

FLDS towns • Overseer Bruce Wisan unsure if he'll resign and says a judge likely will control trust for several years.
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Colorado City, Ariz. • The fiduciary in charge of a polygamous community trust says the board is ready to give homes to 26 people, but a Utah judge will likely have to maintain control over the trust for "the next several years."

The judge will have to maintain control because no one is willing to provide affordable liability insurance to a governing board that many hoped would be able to take control of the United Effort Plan, the trust that holds most of the homes and commercial property here and in adjoining Hildale, Utah.

The fiduciary, Bruce Wisan, said without insurance for the trust, those sitting on a governing board could have their own assets at risk if someone sues the board for decisions it makes.

Wisan said he has searched for insurance. The only quote he could get offered $1 million of coverage — with a $250,000 deductible — for an annual premium of $113,000.

If a judge continues oversight of the UEP, however, decisions about how to distribute properties would be immune from lawsuits.

"For the next several years, a judge will have to be supervising the trust," Wisan said here at the first of two community meetings held Saturday.

UEP has about 750 homes and another couple of hundred residential lots.

Hildale and Colorado City are home of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The state of Utah seized the trust in 2005 over concerns FLDS President Warren Jeffs was mismanaging the trust and people could lose their homes. (Jeffs was convicted in 2011 in Texas of child sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault and is serving a life prison sentence.)

Judge Denise Lindberg, of Utah's 3rd District Court, has overseen the UEP since then, but she is scheduled to retire later this year and a new judge will be assigned.

Wisan spoke Saturday at a public meeting at Mohave County, Ariz., Community College in the morning and in the evening El Capitan School to discuss the latest issues facing the UEP. It was the first time he addressed an audience since he was charged Tuesday in Taylorsville Justice Court with a misdemeanor count of patronizing a prostitute. Wisan has pleaded not guilty.

Wisan referenced the issue at the opening of the morning meeting.

"I'm not sure if I'll resign," he told about 90 people crammed into a classroom. "The judge may replace me. That's a possibility. Or she may use these motives to appoint a board of trustees."

The 22 men and four women receiving homes live in Hildale, which has been subdivided. Wisan said they are considered "no brainer" cases because the residents either built their homes or lived in their homes for many years and there are no other legitimate claims to the properties.

The 26 have been cooperating with Wisan, at least recently. They include Jethro Barlow, an accountant who has been one of Wisan's representatives in Hildale and Colorado City; and Willie Jessop, a former Jeffs bodyguard and confidant who in the last year began providing information to help the UEP defend lawsuits and regain water rights Jessop once helped transfer from the trust.

The 26 will still have to pay a transfer fee of $6,534 per acre and pay any back fees and taxes. The transfer fee, Wisan said, is to pay UEP costs.

The homes can be distributed within a month if Lindberg approves the plan and the fees are paid, Wisan said.

It will be the first major dissemination of homes since Utah seized the trust, though Wisan has sold some commercial and agricultural properties.

No homes are being distributed in Colorado City largely because the properties there have not yet been subdivided. Entire town blocks are listed as one parcel at the county recorder's office.

Wisan also addressed the people being evicted for failing to pay a $100 a month fee on UEP homes. Notices have been served on 16 homes and a UEP attorney on Monday will file court paperwork on 14 of those.

The attorney, Jeff Shields, said occupants of the other two homes have agreed to make payments.

Ross Chatwin, of Colorado City, told Wisan the 14 families being evicted are "related to just about everyone in this room."

Chatwin said some people living in UEP homes are forbidden by Jeffs from paying the fees.

"One day they're going to wake up, but it will be too late for them," Chatwin said.

Chatwin asked what could be done for those still following Jeffs. Shields told Chatwin to encourage those families to complete an occupancy agreement with the UEP. If someone wants to apply for occupancy on that family's behalf, Shields said, that will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

UEP employees and an advisory committee assign homes to people who apply and qualify to live in one.

Danielle Hammon told Wisan she paid the $100 a month for six years then had to move out of the house due to family problems. She let another family move in, but then that family went "behind our back" and applied with Wisan to live in the home. That family is now the legal occupant of the house.

"Why do you guys get to say what we can do with our homes?" a crying Hammon asked.

Jethro Barlow acknowledged difficult circumstances can create problems for deciding who lives in which house.

"Every situation has to be heard on its merits because these are the kind of cases we can't put into a global plan," he said.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com Twitter: @natecalrisle —

UEP home distribution: Sheet 1

Address City State First Last

1280 N. Canyon Hildale Utah John W. Barlow

350 W. Uzona Hildale Utah Merril Harker

675 N. Lauritzen Hildale Utah Michael Pipkin

725 N. Lauritzen Hildale Utah Kathryn & Erlene Cox

325 W. Field Hildale Utah Hazel Zitting

745 N. Lauritzen Hildale Utah Nelda Johnson

345 W. Utah Hildale Utah Craig Bateman

745 N. Richard Hildale Utah James A. Cox

940 N. Hildale Hildale Utah Spencer Johnson

360 E. Utah Hildale Utah David Cook

930 N. Memorial Hildale Utah Ron Rohbock

1045 N. Carling Hildale Utah L. James Barlow

1025 N. Carling Hildale Utah George Hammon

1085 N. Canyon Hildale Utah Jethro Barlow

725 N. Hammon Hildale Utah E. Paul Jessop

265 W. Utah Hildale Utah Robert Williams

290 W. Field Hildale Utah Thomas V. Barlow

950 N. Canyon Hildale Utah Charles S. Johnson

980 N. Canyon Hildale Utah Spencer Johnson

1080 N. Canyon Hildale Utah Diane Williams

525 W. Field Hildale Utah Willie Jessop

660 N. Willow Hildale Utah Andrew G. Chatwin

640 N. Oak Hildale Utah Lester Johnson

845 N. Oak Hildale Utah Lee Steed

620 W. Uzona Hildale Utah Leroy Steed

920 N. Pinion Hildale Utah Bygnal Dutson Jr.