Overseer of FLDS trust alleges a conspiracy

He says polygamous sect members are filing frivolous lawsuits to prevent his work and stop property sales

Salt Lake Tribune/October 31, 2008

The fight over the proposed sale of property from a communal trust set up by a polygamous sect intensified Thursday as the trust overseer alleged there is a "conspiracy" to thwart his efforts.

In a new court document, Bruce R. Wisan refutes claims he is waging war against or seeking to destroy the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Instead, he accused sect members of ''a conspiracy of noncooperation, hostility and sabotage'' against the United Effort Plan Trust that now includes filing "frivolous" lawsuits.

"The conspirators are seeking to starve the trust of the needed funds by preventing the trust from selling its property," the court filing states.

Wisan is negotiating to sell a 711-acre parcel known as Berry Knoll Farms because the trust is out of money. Neither he nor his attorneys have been paid in over a year, leaving the trust with a debt of at least $1 million.

Wisan was appointed in 2005 to oversee the UEP Trust, which was set up more than 60 years ago and holds virtually all property in the twins towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where most residents belong to the FLDS church.

Three FLDS men filed a motion to block the sale, and asked 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg for a hearing so sect members could object to it. Lindberg set a hearing for Nov. 14 in St. George.

Attorney Jim Bradshaw, who represents the men, told Lindberg earlier this month the farmland has been an integral part of the community's breadbasket and is considered sacred because of a prophesy a temple would some day be built there.

Bradshaw also said the proposed buyer, Kenneth Knudson, is a member of a rival polygamous group - Centennial Park - which split with the FLDS in the 1980s over a leadership dispute.

In his filing, Wisan said there is "no credible evidence before the court" that the Berry Knoll property is considered a future temple site by the FLDS. And even if both groups believe it is a temple site, a sale to the highest bidder "is a fair and neutral way to resolve that dispute," he said.

Wisan also contends farming at the site has been unprofitable.

Wisan characterized the FLDS' claims as a "pretext" for blocking the trust's operation, with the intent of denying trust benefits to non-FLDS members and prohibiting FLDS members from obtaining control of their homes.

"Apparently, the movants believe that FLDS persons should be given [a] free pass because of their religion, and should not be held to account for their conduct in damaging the trust," the filing states. "This the fiduciary cannot do!"

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