UEP's year-end report outlines challenges

Desert News/January 2, 2010

Salt Lake City - The United Effort Plan Trust filed its year-end report Thursday in 3rd District Court.

The $100 million-plus trust holds most of the homes and property in Hildale, Utah; Colorado City, Ariz.; and Bountiful, British Columbia, communities long dominated by members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church. It was seized by Utah's courts in 2005 after state attorneys alleged church president Warren Jeffs - then a fugitive from Arizona criminal charges - had used trust assets for personal benefit and left it vulnerable to liquidation from default judgments in civil lawsuits filed in 2004.

The 87-page document filed Thursday outlines the settlement attempts and challenges the trust encountered in 2009, according to Val Oveson, spokesman for the trust's court-appointed special fiduciary, Bruce Wisan. It describes the failed attempt to settle disputes, despite "days of mediation," that would have allowed trust assets to be distributed to the beneficiaries without litigation.

It also blames some members of the FLDS Church with impeding settlement of the trust, in part by hiring seven law firms in 2009 alone.

Story continues below

"These attorneys have filed dozens of motions and lawsuits in an attempt to disrupt the special fiduciary from executing his obligations," Oveson said, noting that the trust has prevailed in all legal matters brought against it by those opposed to its efforts.

Oveson said the trust is in debt - now estimated at over $3 million - with the vast majority of the additional debt being incurred to fight ongoing litigation. He said that leaves Wisan with no choice but to sell assets held by the trust to keep FLDS members from losing their homes.

"Assets considered for (sale) have been limited to those that least affect the individual residents of the community," Oveson said. "The Berry Knoll farm meets that criteria and provides the best opportunity for the trust to raise money, and in the upcoming year, it will remain a viable solution to balance the trust's budget."

In August 2008, FLDS members filed suit to block the sale of 438 acres of farm and range land known as Berry Knoll. They said the land was set aside as a building site for a temple.

The suit led to a proposal brokered by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff that would have returned most of the land held by the trust to FLDS church control. But 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg rejected the proposal, siding with Wisan and the Arizona attorney general's office, which is also a party in the dispute. She ruled the proposed deal was one-sided and favored the FLDS over other beneficiaries.

Oveson said Wisan will provide Lindberg with his recommendations for moving the settlement process forward "fairly and quickly" within the next few weeks.

Contributing: Associated Press

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.