Ron Barton Goes From Polygamy Czar to Tree Czar

Associated Pres/July 6, 2004

Salt Lake City -- Utah's first "polygamy czar," Ron Barton is quitting to become an investigator for the state school and institutional trust lands -- becoming what he calls a "tree czar."

After investigating crime among the polygamists for the Utah attorney general for nearly four years, he now will be investigating thefts of resources, such as timber, minerals and artifacts, from trust lands.

The new polygamy czar is Jim Hill, a former Salt Lake City police officer and most recently a white collar-crime investigator in the attorney general's office.

"They actually worked together on a couple different occasions (on polygamy cases)," said Kirk Torgensen, chief deputy attorney general. "We are not going to skip much of a beat. I don't see this setting us back at all."

Barton, who will assist Hill for a while, has "done quite a good job under very tough circumstances. Obviously, information is hard to get from the communities he is working with. But he's been able to get some pretty good intelligence," Torgensen said.

"I am sad to see him go," said Rowenna Erickson, co-founder of Tapestry Against Polygamy and a former member of the polygamist Kingston clan. "I hope we don't have to start from the ground up to educate this next guy."

Barton took on the work in October 2000 as Attorney General Mark Shurtleff vowed a get-tough attitude toward polygamists who engage in abuse or illegal sexual behavior.

Shurtleff is "the first politician in 50 years who has had the integrity to risk his political career to go after people in the polygamy community who are victimizing innocent people," said Barton, whose great-grandfather practiced polygamy.

Even with that political backing, the job proved draining, Barton said Friday.

"When I started this job, I gave out my home number and cell phone number, and some weeks I was doing more work at night and on the weekends than during the week," he said. "I may be getting a little burned out. These things take a long time to build momentum."

Barton played a role in the successful prosecutions of polygamists Rodney Holm and Tom Green on child rape and bigamy charges.

David K. Zitting, mayor of Hildale, which with adjacent Colorado City, Ariz., is home to the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, recently complained that Barton was a nuisance.

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