A dairy and alfalfa farm operated by members of a polygamous sect will be seized to satisfy an $8.8 million judgment against Warren S. Jeffs and the FLDS church.
Harker Farms Inc., in Beryl, has until May 25 to either comply with or object to the seizure sought by Bruce R. Wisan, a court-appointed fiduciary overseeing the United Effort Plan Trust. Harker & Sons, the entity that operates the farm, faces the same deadline.
The property to be seized includes land, cash and equipment. These assets will be used to pay the judgment and benefit the trust, which could keep the farm or sell it.
The Harkers were served with a writ of garnishment on Friday. Nevada Attorney Greg Miles, who represents them, said they would comply with the order.
“Although they feel the situation is extremely unfair, they respect the law and will cooperate with the law and bear no ill will toward the special fiduciary, who is trying to do his job the best he can,” Miles said Wednesday.
The farm encompasses 400 acres. Miles did not know what its value might be.
Parley J. Harker began farming in the Escalante Desert around 1950 after moving to Utah from Idaho. He later joined with fundamentalist Mormons in what was then known as Short Creek, according to Ben Bistline, author of The Polygamists: A History of Colorado City, Arizona.
Potatoes grown on the farm years ago were processed at a now-defunct processing plant in Colorado City, which, with Hildale, Utah, has been the home base of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Harker, a church counselor and UEP trustee, also oversaw other farming operations in the community.
Like many FLDS business operations, the farm was considered to be consecrated to the church. Harker arranged in 1997 to formally turn the farm over to the FLDS church, said Salt Lake Attorney Rod Parker, who helped Harker with his estate planning. In December of that year, Harker & Sons, which owned and operated the farm, was signed over to the church’s business arm. Harker died in 1998.
On June 30, 2004, some of Harker’s sons and a grandson – Stephen P., William S., Benjamin, and Joseph L. Harker – re-signed that agreement with the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the FLDS church.
Jeffs signed as the presiding bishop, according to a court document. Parley Harker’s sons continued to operate the farm afterward; most recently, it was managed by Joseph L. Harker and supported numerous families.
The deal transferring the property allowed Wisan to seize the farm after he received a default judgment in March against Jeffs, other trustees and the FLDS church for mismanaging the trust.
The other trustees named in the judgment are James K. Zitting, Leroy S. Jeffs, Truman L. Barlow and William E. Jessop, who also is known as William E. Timpson.
If Wisan does not satisfy the $8.8 million judgment by seizing the farm, he may pursue other assets held by any of those debtors.
Parker, who formerly represented the FLDS church, believes Wisan is going far beyond his mandate as caretaker of the UEP trust.
“It is part of a concerted, deliberate effort to dismantle all the assets of the church,” Parker said. “To pull all of these properties together and take them away from the church – that is just not what he was appointed by the court to do.
“There is a vacuum on the other side but that doesn’t mean he has the moral right to fill it, or the mandate,” Parker said, referring to the FLDS’ refusal to defend themselves in various legal actions.
But Wisan’s actions have the backing of 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg, the Utah Attorney General’s Office and an advisory board of trustees who are working with him.