Cost for polygamist raid expected to top $14 million

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The cost of the April raid on a polygamist compound in West Texas is expected to top $14 million, about one-third of it in lawyers’ fees, according to a published analysis of state records.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram published its findings Saturday after reviewing more than 400 pages of invoices, e-mails and other state records that it obtained under an open-records law request.

More invoices for overtime, travel and professional services are expected to boost the final tab, the records indicate.

The biggest chunk of spending is expected to stem from court proceedings after the state seized about 460 children from the Yearning For Zion Ranch near Eldorado, which is owned by the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

A state district judge in San Angelo first gave custody of the children to the state child protective services agency, but the Texas Supreme Court later ordered that decision reversed, saying the state had overstepped its authority.

The children were returned to their families early this month, about two months after the raid. Texas authorities are continuing investigations into allegations of child abuse. See a timeline of the FLDS case »

The state expects to pay nearly $4.5 million in legal fees, including paying for lawyers who represented the state and others appointed by judges to represent the children. The state also expects to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for expert witnesses, visiting judges and office supplies.

The state attorney general’s office has been billed $110,000 for DNA testing of adults and children taken from the ranch in an effort to identify the parents of each child.

Another big chunk of spending, about $2.4 million, went to rent buses and facilities to house the children and some of the mothers after the early April raid, the newspaper reported.

Overtime for state employees, including workers in the state’s protective services agencies, was about $1.7 million, and travel another $1.2 million during the first month after the raid.

The Texas Department of Public Safety spent nearly $1.3 million, including $410,000 for overtime pay and about $82,000 for travel.

The Star-Telegram said the records it examined didn’t include bills submitted by private charity groups that helped the state, and invoices from state employees may still be submitted.

Stephanie Goodman, spokeswoman for the state’s Health and Human Services Commission, said the documents released to the newspaper captured “the vast majority of the overtime and the travel.” She said state officials were still working with foster-care facilities to cover costs not included in daily rates.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday June 15, 2008.
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