Judge denies FLDS request to oust UEP fiduciary

Deseret News/July 16, 2008

The judge overseeing the Fundamentalist LDS Church's real-estate holdings arm has denied a temporary restraining order that sought to strip her court-appointed special fiduciary of his powers.

Third District Court Judge Denise P. Lindberg denied the motion without hearing any arguments, suggesting that the attempt to oust Bruce Wisan was wrapped up in an emergency request to halt evictions in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

"At such time as any allegations regarding the special fiduciary's conduct are properly brought to this court, the court will address them after notice and opportunity for a hearing," she wrote in an order obtained by the Deseret News. "The court will not, however, allow an unlawful detainer proceeding to be used to that end."

Lawyers for FLDS members behind the restraining order request were not disappointed.

"We take this as good news because essentially the court is giving us guidance," Bret Rawson, a lawyer representing some of the FLDS members, said Wednesday.

Approximately 57 homes - up to 1,000 people - face eviction for refusing to sign occupancy agreements and pay $100 a month fees to live on land controlled by the United Effort Plan Trust. In essence, the judge told them to wait until Wisan began eviction proceedings in St. George's 5th District Court before fighting it.

The lawyers for the FLDS are also seeking to oust Wisan, who was appointed to manage the UEP Trust when the courts took control of it back in 2005. In their motion, they criticize Wisan's management style and accuse him of creating a number of problems within the FLDS communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

"We welcome the opportunity to respond to those allegations," said Mark L. Callister, an attorney for the fiduciary.

The courts took control of the UEP Trust, with assets estimated at $100 million in property in the FLDS communities, amid allegations that FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and others mismanaged it. FLDS leaders refused to answer lawsuits filed by ex-members and have refused to challenge the court's intervention and reform efforts in the trust.

Until now.

"Now that we have been retained there will be a new opportunity to go in and share evidence and information," Rawson said.

Callister welcomed it.

"For the first time in three years we'll have the opportunity to ask some serious questions about why the judge's orders have not been followed by some of the citizens of those communities, and questions concerning what happened to trust assets."

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