Colorado City: At city council meeting, residents are urged to pay property taxes
COLORADO CITY, Ariz. – With a timer ticking off his three minutes, court-appointed fiduciary Bruce Wisan raced through elements of the historic transformation under way in this community as the City Council sat silent and stonefaced.
The council refused to put Wisan on Monday night’s agenda, requiring him to take the podium during the public comment period sandwiched between city department reports.
Council members showed no curiousity about a proposal for reforming the United Effort Plan Trust that holds virtually all property in Colorado City and its twin, Hildale, Utah – home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Council members, all of whom belong to the polygamous sect, asked no questions about survey work that is dividing each block into individual parcels for tax purposes, ending the communal assessment that has been the tradition here.
And they had no reaction to a request from Jeffrey Shields, Wisan’s attorney, that the pell-mell fence-building around residences that has gone on for months be reined in.
It all went pretty much as he expected, Wisan said afterwards.
“We’ve come a long way with information to disseminate and we were not given an opportunity to do that,” he said. “I felt the cold shoulder here tonight. I hope for a more professional reception in Hildale City.”
Wisan is scheduled to address the Hildale City Council, which granted his request for agenda time, this morning.
Wisan has had oversight of the UEP trust since last May, when a 3rd District judge moved to protect its assets after the FLDS church and its leaders – including fugitive FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs – failed to respond to civil lawsuits.
As of December, only a portion of taxes had been paid to Washington and Mohave counties, leaving a delinquency approaching approximately $1 million.
In the past, residents paid a monthly assessment to the UEP to cover those taxes. Businesses and more financially able residents filled any shortfalls that occurred.
Wisan is asking residents to indicate willingness to pay taxes to either him or the counties; he also has suggested they wait to pay any taxes until after the property survey is completed so an accounting can be made on an individual basis.
But since losing control of the trust, FLDS leaders are said to have told followers to not cooperate with Wisan or other authorities.
They are apparently doing as told. At the end of Monday’s meeting, a representative for Wisan attempted to hand Councilman Bygnal Dutson a subpoena as part of an investigation into missing UEP property.
Dutson refused to take the document and walked out of the room as the papers fluttered onto the council table.
Nevertheless, Wisan is plowing ahead. The property survey is expected to be finished on schedule by June, according to Clinton S. Peatross of Bush & Gudgell.
As for reforming the trust, 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg now has two proposals, one submitted by Attorney Roger Hoole on behalf of the so-called Lost Boys and one from Wisan.
One challenge in reforming the trust is how to deal with the fact that many residents of the twin cities are practicing polygamists. In her directives to Wisan, Lindberg said the trust can not be set up to benefit illegal practices such as polygamy but also that it must use “neutral principles” regarding religioius doctrine.
Wisan’s attorneys get around that contradiction by proposing that polygamy not be used as a criterion for or against determining eligibility of trust beneficiaries.