Director of Child Brides is ousted

He criticized activist who may harbor children

ST. GEORGE Help the Child Brides director Bob Curran, who voiced his concerns Tuesday that anti-polygamy activist Flora Jessop was jeopardizing the group’s credibility, has apparently paid a price for speaking out.

Jessop, in a 9 p.m. Tuesday conference call with fellow Help the Child Brides board members Jim Ashurst and Jay Beswick, voted to remove Curran from his position with the group.

Curran, who is also a member of the board of directors, was not included in the call. He was informed of the decision through an e-mail from Ashurst.

“It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? I put them on the board a couple of months ago, and they’re getting rid of me,” Curran said Wednesday morning. “I’m just exhausted with this. I have a great sense of loss and sadness.”

The split between Curran and Jessop comes on the heels of unsubstantiated claims by Jessop that she is harboring six teenage runaways from the polygamist towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

Jessop insists she is in touch with the runaway youths and is working with Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard to put the teens in protective custody. No official reports of runaway children have been received by any agency that normally is involved in such issues.

“The reality is that not everyone is involved in this because these kids can’t trust anyone else but me,” said Jessop. “I am in close contact with the authorities, and they are aware of the details. I’m choosing to trust the authorities in Arizona.”

A woman in Goddard’s Phoenix office said the attorney general is planning to release a statement on the issue today.

Curran, who opened the St. George office of Help the Child Brides with his own money and registered the nonprofit business with the state Department of Commerce, cleaned out his office on Tabernacle Street Wednesday morning.

“My only goal has been to bring everybody together so we’re on the same page,” Curran said, adding the organization has tried hard to help anyone trying to leave a polygamous lifestyle. “We’ve received a lot of donations, especially in the past couple of weeks. I guess we’ll have to give that money back.”

Curran said he would take the time today to investigate whether the action taken against him is legally binding. Vicky Prunty of Tapestry Against Polygamy in Salt Lake City said she is saddened to hear of Curran’s dismissal.

“We are disappointed that Bob Curran is leaving Help the Child Brides because he has been a tremendous force for good in the St. George area,” Prunty said. “At this time, Tapestry will not refer any polygamous refugees, especially minors, to Help the Child Brides.”

Jessop is also under fire for a separate incident in which she took two 16-year-old girls from a St. George safe house to Phoenix, where she lives. The girls ran away from their Colorado City homes the weekend of Jan. 10.

The parents of the girls immediately contacted police and reported them missing. Arizona authorities placed the two girls in temporary protective custody until their case can be heard before a judge Monday.

A third girl left the following weekend and is in the custody of the state of Utah, but no other children are reported missing from the area.

Jessop said Wednesday she was taking the two teens out for “a complete makeover,” adding the girls would be cutting their long hair, wearing makeup and putting polish on their nails.

Both girls have given numerous interviews to a variety of media. A picture of Jessop and the two girls is posted on the Web site: www.helpthechildbrides.com.

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