UEP official accepts FLDS check after all

Associated Press/June 8, 2009

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A court-appointed fiduciary has reversed a decision to reject a check for past-due housing fees from a southern Utah polygamous church.

Bruce Wisan initially rejected the Monday payment of $192,600 made "under protest" by the Fundamentalist LDS Church.

The fees are half of what's owed in occupancy fees on homes in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. The homes are held in the church's United Effort Plan Trust, which was established in 1942.

The Utah courts seized the trust in 2005 after allegations of mismanagement by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, who was then on the run from criminal charges but was later caught, tried and convicted by a Utah jury on an accomplice to rape charge for his role in the marriage of an underage follower to her cousin.

The courts put the trust under Wisan's control.

Wisan said he feared accepting the housing payment would have left him vulnerable to a lawsuit.

FLDS attorneys have since sent a letter to the Utah Attorney General's Office stating that they don't intend to sue, but they made the payment under protest to preserve their right to raise the issue in court.

Residents of trust properties are required by the court to pay a monthly $100 occupancy fee. The fees are to pay for management of the trust, which holds about $114 million in property but is cash-poor and owes more than $2.6 million to Wisan and others. Story continues below

The FLDS collected and paid two months of fees late last year after the sect began settlement talks with Wisan and the attorneys general of Utah and Arizona about control of the property trust.

The FLDS stopped payments in January and say Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff had asked Wisan to choose between the monthly payments and the monthly income from a church dairy that is also trust property. The sect says Wisan chose the roughly $100,000 in monthly milk money over the housing fees.

Wisan said no such deal was ever brokered and that the dairy is not profitable.

"The monthly costs are in excess of $100,000," he said. "The dairy is not making money."

The balance of the $385,000 in housing fees is due June 15. It's the same day the parties are to submit a proposed settlement to 3rd District Court.

"I would definitely like to see a settlement, I'm just not sure we can get there," said Wisan. "The bottom line is it has to be fair and reasonable and the judge has to approve it."

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