First Evictions Ordered In Polygamist Town 16, 2006

Eviction notices were served Thursday on two high-profile members of a polygamist church - the latest move by a court-appointed accountant to get members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to comply with state laws.

Notices were served on William "Bill" Shapley, a member of the Colorado City Town Council and James Zitting, a former trustee of the United Effort Plan Trust who is believed to be part of the inner circle of Warren Jeffs, the fugitive FLDS leader.

Shapley and Zitting are the first residents to be served eviction notices following 43 tax demand letters sent out to church and community leaders in April and early May, Salt Lake City accountant Bruce Wisan said. Both men live in Colorado City.

"Those are the only two who didn't respond," Wisan said. "We verified this morning with Mohave County (Arizona) that they hadn't paid."

The trust holds nearly all the property, homes and other buildings in the twin towns of Colorado City and Hildale, Utah, where most of the church's estimated 10,000 members live. The trust, which has a value of about $100 million, also holds property in Bountiful, British Columbia, where a small outpost of members settled.

Wisan's management of the trust began in June 2005 after a Utah judge ruled Jeffs and other church leaders had mismanaged trust assets, including funding Jeff's status as a fugitive.

Jeffs, who is on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, has been in hiding for two years. He is wanted in Arizona and Utah on felony charges related to arranging marriages between teenage girls and older men.

In April, Wisan said anyone living in trust-owned homes was required to pay taxes or face eviction.

Both Shapley and Zitting now have five days to leave their homes or pay their taxes so that they can stay, Wisan said.

"If they're not out, then we will proceed to go to court and, however long that takes, I will get a court order to forcibly remove them," Wisan said. "I do not want that to happen, but I will allow it to happen to make sure the property taxes are paid."

Efforts to reach Shapley and Zitting by The Associated Press were unsuccessful Friday.

A message left for Shapley at Colorado City's Town Hall was not immediately returned. Home telephone numbers for both he and Zitting have been disconnected.

Colorado City resident Isaac Wyler, who has been working for Wisan, served the two evictions notices.

"They locked the doors down and wouldn't let me in," Wyler said. "So I just posted the notices. I tape them to the door, about four copies on each house."

He said it's possible that Shapley and Zitting maybe testing the waters to see how far they could go before Wisan took action.

Both Zitting and Shapley are prominent members of the community, with multiple wives and numerous children, who live in large homes and should have the ability to pay, Wyler said.

"These are huge houses," Wyler said. "We're not talking little 1,200-square foot homes, probably more like 14,000- or at least 10,000-square feet."

Wyler has been aggressively serving tax notices on residents in the twin towns over the past few weeks. By next Monday, all 250 homes in Hildale will have been served or posted with tax demand letters, Wisan said. Within two weeks, the same effort should be complete on the roughly 550 homes in Colorado City, he said.

And despite early rumors that Jeffs had ordered members not to cooperate with Wisan, the taxes are getting paid.

Hildale residents have made significant progress toward paying off a Washington County tax bill of nearly $295,000, county accounting specialist Michelle Jacobson said. A month ago, more than $106,000 was still owed, but as of Friday the outstanding balance was only $17,950.50, not including penalties and interest, she said.

At nearly $1.1 million, Colorado City's tax bill is far higher. On Friday, Mohave County Deputy Treasurer Dave Chevalier said that as of June 5, $614,735 of the taxes had been paid.

Wisan can't say for sure what's prompted the payments.

"I think the FLDS leadership has just looked at the situation and decided that it's better to pay the taxes than to choose one of the other, more expensive alternatives," Wisan said.

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