Hildale -- Faithful followers of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs opted to stay home Thursday night rather than meet the man who now controls the properties they call home.
Special fiduciary Bruce Wisan made his first trip to the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., to explain firsthand what is happening with the United Effort Plan Trust that holds nearly all property in this FLDS enclave.
Just over 50 people who occupy homes in the towns but are not affiliated with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints turned out for the meeting, held at Hildale City Hall.
And they appreciated the chance to hear Wisan's methodical explanation about what is likely to happen with their properties.
“It's the first open meeting with the residents living on this property,” said Don Timpson, a 28-year resident of Colorado City. “That is a big first step for us. He gets to meet us, we get to meet him and he gets to become familiar with the problems here.”
Wisan had the meeting taped so that his comments can be shared later with FLDS members.
During the 90-minute meeting, Wisan explained his role and recent court action regarding the UEP Trust. Fundamentalists who live in the twin cities set up the trust in 1942 to manage properties communally. It holds almost all homes and property in the two cities, which are home to about 8,000 members of the FLDS faith. The church follows a 19th century version of Mormonism that includes plural marriage.
In May, the Utah Attorney General's Office asked a 3rd District judge to appoint a fiduciary to oversee the trust, alleging it was being improperly managed and was in jeopardy because of two lawsuits filed against the church and Jeffs.
Among the complicated issues still being sorted out, Wisan said, is whether the trust is a private, charitable or business trust, a determination that will have tax consequences for residents.
He said that about $330,000 of the $795,000 in property taxes currently due in Arizona and Utah has been paid. That money was paid by the FLDS Church, according to Wisan's attorney Jeffrey Shields.
Shields said it is unclear what calculations the church made in making that payment.
“We're considerably short and that presents some problems,” Wisan said.
But he is advising other residents to hold off on paying taxes while he gets property surveyed - something that has never been done before - and values assessed on individual lots.
Many parcels have multiple homes on them, and payment for one home will not necessarily prevent the entire property from defaulting on taxes and thus being considered delinquent.
“My best advice is save your money for the 2005/2006 year, and by the time 2007 comes about, we'll be able to be individually assessed and be able to make up any deficiencies,” he said.
On Monday, 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg said she will appoint a neutral board of trustees to oversee the United Effort Plan Trust. She is likely to name that board when she issues a written order in mid-November, Wisan said.