FLDS want new fiduciary
A lawyer for residents of the Fundamentalist LDS communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., is going to court to try to remove the man placed in charge of the polygamous sect’s real-estate holdings arm.
Peter Stirba filed a motion for a temporary restraining order late Tuesday, seeking to strip court-appointed special fiduciary Bruce Wisan of his powers. The restraining order also seeks to stop planned evictions from land controlled by the United Effort Plan Trust. A hearing on the issue is expected to be held in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court today.
The Deseret Morning News, indirectly owned by the Mormon Church, insists on calling the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the “Fundamentalist LDS”.
The United Effort Plan Trust was officially organized in 1942 by a fundamentalist Mormon group known at the time as The Work – now the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
It was designed to protect property and, through a communal effort, support members with plural families.
The trust holds virtually all land and buildings in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., formerly known as Short Creek; it also includes property in Bountiful, British Columbia. The holdings have an estimated value of $110 million.
The UEP Trust was placed under court management in May 2005 after the FLDS failed to defend its assets against several lawsuits that alleged wrongdoing by trustees and church leaders. Salt Lake City accountant Bruce R. Wisan has managed it since then.
In March 2007, Wisan received a $8.8 million default judgment against the FLDS Church and former trustees, a debt he has partially satisfied by seizing a farm formerly operated by the sect. Still owed: $5 million or so, with interest.
Wisan now works with an appointed advisory board that includes: Carolyn Jessop, Seth Cooke, Don Timpson, Katie Cox, Deloy Bateman, Robert Huddleston and Margaret Cooke. With the exception of Huddleston and Timpson, they are former FLDS members.
In an interview Tuesday, Wisan disputed the attorney’s allegations and said it would be an uphill battle.
“Peter Stirba wants to replace the reformed trust, replace the fiduciary and go back to FLDS control,” he told the Deseret News. “He doesn’t understand the need for the fiduciary.”
In court papers, Stirba lashed out at the fiduciary and his management style, criticized him for hiring ex-FLDS members to collect taxes and his interactions with the community’s police. He accused Wisan of driving away local businesses and people.
The FLDS’ failure to respond to court papers, tax notices and even pleas from the judge has frustrated many. Since the trust was taken over, Wisan said he has struggled to get property taxes paid and enact court-ordered reforms to the trust. The resistance from FLDS faithful has often been because of edicts by leadership and Wisan believes this change of tactic is fallout from the raid on the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, Texas.
“They’ve seen that this resist but don’t legally fight hasn’t worked,” Wisan said. “I was told by a representative of the FLDS, ‘We’ve seen the last default judgment and we’re going to be fighting from now on.’ In some ways it’ll be interesting to have the FLDS come to the table, and be subject to deposition and cross examination.”
Stirba could not say why the FLDS declined to address the situation back in 2005, but pointed out: “the days of the FLDS people not defending themselves in court is over.”