Eldorado, Texas » A spokesman for a polygamous sect had one question for the Schleicher County Commission on Monday: How can we be good neighbors?
Willie Jessop met with the four-member commission during a recess in a criminal hearing for 10 FLDS men being held on an upper floor of the county courthouse.
Jessop, spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, invited the commissioners to "mosey out" to the ranch as part of a plea that the county "acknowledge we exist."
More pointedly, Jessop said the FLDS feel they aren't fairly represented in the county despite the ranch's status as the third largest property taxpayer.
"Do we have a say on what goes on in the county at all?" Jessop asked.
He questioned why no FLDS had been called to serve on juries in the small county, which has a jury pool of 2,500.
Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran explained the random selection process, which draws jurists from voter's registration and drivers license records. About 140 FLDS members registered to vote after the April 3 raid on the ranch.
Jessop said that accusations that the sect planned to take over the local government are false -- though Doran noted they were fueled by comments Jessop made last spring.
"We're not," Jessop said Monday. "We're not here asking for tax rebates, we're just here to ask you to treat us fair."
The sect owes $544,100.77 in property taxes on the Yearning For Zion Ranch, a 1,700-acre spread just outside town.
"Of course we've had a tough year," he said.
But the sect is not asking for a tax break or seeking any government assistance, he said -- and never has, although it now feels like "we're paying for our own demise."
Jessop told the commissioners that the sect needs "your help in giving us some ideas on what we can do to be the best neighbors."
The response from the commission? "Duly noted," said commissioner and county judge Charlie Bradley.