The judge overseeing the real-estate holdings arm of the Fundamentalist LDS Church is expanding the number of community members involved in making land decisions in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
A judge in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court has signed off on a plan to expand the advisory board for the United Effort Plan Trust.
“After careful consideration, the court hereby appoints Deloy Bateman, Kathryn Cox, and Seth Cooke as new members of the advisory board,” Judge Denise Lindberg wrote in an order issued Dec. 20.
The advisory board was set up in the aftermath of a court takeover of the UEP Trust, which controls homes, businesses and property in the FLDS communities. In 2005, the court took control of the trust amid allegations that polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs and other top FLDS officials had been mismanaging it. The judge suspended the trustees and appointed a special fiduciary.
“The court determined that, prior to selecting a permanent board of trustees, an advisory board should be selected to provide feedback to the special fiduciary and make recommendations regarding initial implementation of the reformed trust,” Lindberg wrote.
The board was initially made up of Don Timpson, Carolyn Jessop, Margaret Cooke, Bob Huddleston, John Nielsen and Spencer Johnson. Recently, Johnson and Nielsen resigned, and community nominations were taken for their replacements. Yet no FLDS members have participated, said court-appointed special fiduciary Bruce Wisan.
“I’ve heard rumblings they’re re-evaluating how they should react to the whole situation here, legally and with the UEP,” he told the Deseret Morning News Monday. “It may be that new leadership is in the process of being formed. Maybe we can get some participation. There’s a spot on the board automatically for FLDS participation.”
The advisory board was only supposed to be in place a year, but it has not disbanded. The judge expects it will be at least another year before it is self-sustaining.
“There are those who have placed roadblocks in the path of the reformed trust, failing to appreciate that in doing so all the beneficiaries of the trust are ultimately damaged,” Lindberg wrote.
Court-ordered reforms in the UEP Trust have been met with resistance, mostly from FLDS faithful. Initially, many refused to pay property taxes or respond to requests from the fiduciary. It was under an edict from Jeffs urging the faithful to “say nothing, do nothing, sign nothing.”
Jeffs, 52, is now serving prison time for performing a child bride marriage. His defense attorneys released a statement earlier this month announcing that he had resigned as president of the FLDS Church. It is unclear if he has resigned as prophet, something he did in taped jailhouse conversations with family and followers. His attorneys have said he recanted that.
Recently, ex-FLDS members who have been serving tax notices have said they have noticed some changes. People appear to be friendlier about their tax notices, they said, although they still avoid dealing with the fiduciary.
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