Arizona to take control of FLDS school district

Salt Lake Tribune/December 3, 2005

Phoenix -- A public school district that serves a community dominated by a polygamist sect will be placed under state financial control under an agreement disclosed Friday.

The agreement reached between the Colorado City Unified School District and the Arizona Attorney General's Office is subject to approval by the state Board of Education, which will consider it Monday. Acceptance would cancel a Dec. 8-9 hearing that the board had scheduled to consider a receivership petition filed by state officials.

The agreement calls for the Board of Education to appoint a receiver to oversee the district's financial administration. The agreement states that the district does not admit wrongdoing but that it settled with the state to avoid the costs of litigation ''and to ensure the continuity of educational services provided to the students of the district.''

The agreement also calls for the retirement and resignation of Alvin Barlow, the district's superintendent, and Jeffrey Jessop, business manager, on Dec. 31. They're to be placed on non-administrative duties in the meantime if the state board approves the agreement.

State officials filed to take over the district in August, alleging that taxpayers and students have been harmed by mismanagement that included purchase of a nearly $200,000 airplane, questionable dealings concerning buildings and equipment and poor fiscal practices that kept teachers from being paid for two months last year.

Colorado City, north of the Grand Canyon in a secluded area of northwestern Arizona, is dominated by the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The sect, which has an estimated 10,000 members, dominates Colorado City and neighboring Hildale, Utah, and also has enclaves in Texas' Schleicher County and in Bountiful, British Columbia.

The receivership petition is one of several fronts in which Arizona and Utah authorities are placing pressure on the leadership of the fundamentalist church.

In Utah, the state attorney general this year obtained a court order removing fugitive church leader Warren Jeffs and other church leaders from management of the United Effort Plan

Trust, which holds the FLDS' real estate assets.

Jeffs is sought on an Arizona indictment charging that he arranged a marriage between a 16-year-old girl and a man who was already married.

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