Pay up or get out. That was the message, though not put so bluntly, the court-appointed fiduciary Bruce Wisan relayed to the Hildale City meeting attendees on Wednesday.
A demand notice that had been sent to Lyle Jeffs, an official in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and younger brother of fugitive FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs, was paid with $14,000 cash for the 64-acre parcel he lives on. We implore the remaining property owners to follow his lead.
Wisan urged FLDS leaders and members to pay their taxes, estimated to be $1 million, or face eviction from their homes that are considered part of the UEP trust. He has said that he’d prefer a “happily ever after” resolution, but is not waiting any longer than necessary for the required surveys on the properties to settle lot boundaries.
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He let it be known in no uncertain terms that those who choose not to pay their property taxes will face eviction, a process that can take as little as 10 days. We support that position.
Wisan was chosen last May by Third District Court Judge Denise Lindberg to revise and manage the United Effort Plan Trust – estimated value close to $100 million – that serves as the financial arm of the FLDS church, after legal battles started building over the twin polygamist towns of Colorado City, Ariz. and Hildale, Utah.
Real estate became a key element in the drama that unfolded when evidence proved the UEP trust was selling land below market value and the trustees were not responding to civil lawsuits.
We urge the Hildale residents to understand the economics in play here because we believe you’ve been victimized by some in positions of trust who took advantage of your obedience and faith by leeching off of the communal trust for personal gain. Do not allow yourselves to be revictimized by not cooperating with Wisan and the authorities. It could leave you homeless and destitute.
While our hearts go out to those who are truly trying to stand by their religious convictions, we think Wisan is right to start the eviction process that would apply to all residents in the state of Utah who have failed to pay their property taxes.
When Hildale residents agreed to participate in the UEP, they also consented to accept accountability for it. Paying property taxes is a vital part of that. Abide by the law or accept the consequences. That’s what any of us would have to do in the same situation.
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