Decision on trustees is delayed

Associated Press/August 5, 2005
By Jennifer Dobner

Salt Lake City - A judge on Thursday ordered people who want to be trustees for the polygamist church on the Utah-Arizona border to give the court a detailed look at their qualifications and an explanation of their intentions.

Judge Denise Lindberg was scheduled to name trustees Thursday for the United Effort Plan trust, which holds the real estate assets of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. But the Utah attorney general's office and a court-appointed independent auditor evaluating the trust asked the court to delay, seeking more information about nominees after objections were filed to most names.

Lindberg agreed, saying she was yet not prepared to appoint anyone.

"I don't have all the information I want to have," Lindberg said, noting that decisions made about the multimillion-dollar trust will affect numerous lives.

Lindberg set a hearing date of Oct. 25 for her decision and gave the 20-plus nominees until Aug. 24 to supply their information to the court.

The Utah attorney general sought the removal, saying the trustees, including fugitive church leader Warren Jeffs, had liquidated some trust assets and left others vulnerable by failing to defend lawsuits filed against Jeffs. An independent auditor was temporarily placed in charge of the trust.

In June, the court permanently removed Jeffs and other church leaders from management of the trust.

Church members formed the trust during the 1940s, willingly turning over their property to the church, so all could share in the community's assets.

Lindberg has two choices in October. She can appoint trustees to take control of the UEP trust, or appoint a board of advisers to work with the independent auditor, Bruce Wisan.

Lindberg also said she had not yet determined how many people she might appoint in either case. Court documents that established the trust suggest between three and nine members should serve.

"I have no idea what the optimal number might be," Lindberg said.

Per the judge's order, nominees must detail their education, professional experience including specific degrees, certificates or licenses that show expertise applicable to managing a trust, and residential information. A nominee's criminal arrest and prosecution history is required, along with their civil court history, including any matters involving the FLDS church. The judge also asked for credit reports and scores, and an indication of their ability as candidates to post a bond to serve as a trustee.

Of primary interest to Lindberg is detailed information on the candidates' relationship to the FLDS church, including whether they are present or past members, were excommunicated or have any existing familial ties to the community.

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