Hildale told to pay up or get out

Fiduciary speeds demand in talk with FLDS city leaders

Salt Lake City Tribune/April 12, 2006
By Brooke Adams

Hildale - Hildale's town council was warned Tuesday that a court-appointed fiduciary plans to target church leaders' residences, the community's biggest homes and even entire blocks to bring a standoff over property taxes to a head.

Bruce Wisan told council members Tuesday he already has delivered a demand notice to Lyle Jeffs, an official in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and younger brother of fugitive FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs. The notice asks Lyle Jeffs to pay property taxes or face eviction, a process that could begin in about 10 days.

Wisan had planned to wait until a property survey was done to start pressing residents to pay their taxes. But the tepid response he has received convinced him he had to act now.

"I've come to the conclusion that waiting is not the best course of action," Wisan said. "I've started to proceed in a direction that will accelerate the decision-making in regard to property taxes."

Wisan's short list includes about a dozen names of people now living in residences considered part of the United Effort Plan (UEP) trust, which includes virtually all property in Hildale and its twin, Colorado City, Ariz. He declined to share those names, saying he wants to run them by his advisory board.

The FLDS church and individual property owners have made some tax payments, but as of December half a million dollars remained due to Mohave and Washington counties. That shortfall is a growing concern for the towns and the local public school, Wisan said. Another $500,000 is due in Arizona at the end of the month.

Wisan said he's hoping for a "happily ever after" resolution.

"The bottom line of the trust is we'd like people who are here to stay here; we'd like them to be amiable and to pay taxes and not have the confrontations we seem to be having," he said. "I want to know who's going to stay and who's going to pay."

Wisan told the council he has heard many residents plan to just move elsewhere "like the early [Mormon] saints in Nauvoo." He said that makes little sense because they will face rent and payments that will quickly surpass what they now owe in property taxes.

"I would hope residents would understand the economics here," he said.

Hildale Mayor David K. Zitting allowed Wisan time on the council's early-morning agenda to discuss a property survey now in progress, as well as other issues related to the UEP.

Wisan has had oversight of the trust since last May, when a Utah judge moved to protect its assets after the FLDS church and its leaders - including Warren Jeffs - failed to respond to civil lawsuits. Warren Jeffs is wanted on a federal warrant for an Arizona charge of arranging an underage marriage; Utah authorities last week charged him with two counts of rape, saying he facilitated the assault of another teen.

Since losing control of the trust, FLDS leaders are said to have told followers to not cooperate with Wisan or other authorities, forsaking the past practice of contributing money to help cover property taxes.

Wisan now is having the two cities surveyed in order to divide blocks into individual tax parcels, which residents would then be responsible to cover.

Bush & Gudgell, a survey firm with offices in Salt Lake City and St. George, expects the subdivision work to be completed by June.

Wisan also provided the council with copy of a proposal, filed in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City, for revising the UEP trust. And his attorney, Jeffrey Shields, raised concerns about the safety hazard caused by tall residential fences being built too close to streets. Some fences may need to be torn down, Shields told the council.

Zitting asked a few questions about the fence issue; none of the other three council members present made any comment. No other FLDS members attended the meeting.

"I think we'll just let it stand with what he said," Zitting said later, adding he is not concerned about residents learning what Wisan had to say. "I'm sure the word gets out from where it needs to go from the city council."

Wisan also got the silent treatment Monday night, when he presented much of the same information to the Colorado City town council.

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