The FLDS church and heirs of a former prophet want a Utah judge to remove a fiduciary who oversees a polygamous community’s property trust, alleging the trustee’s actions have left the trust in “decidedly worse” shape than when he took over its management.
A motion filed Wednesday alleges Bruce R. Wisan has failed to protect United Effort Plan Trust property and is biased against FLDS members, who are a majority of the trust’s beneficiaries. Wisan has overseen the UEP Trust since May 2005.
The motion was filed by the corporation of the president of the FLDS church and the estate of Rulon T. Jeffs, the sect’s former president.
Both entities claim to have a beneficiary interest in the trust, though 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg has not ruled on whether they have standing in the case.
They ask Lindberg to appoint a new fiduciary who does not have “an obvious conflict of interest” — something she has refused to do in the past.
The motion refers to comments by Wisan and his attorneys, in billings and court hearings, about being “at war” with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
It says Wisan has saddled the trust with millions in debt — owed mostly to himself and his attorneys — despite Lindberg’s order that such obligations be avoided. The trust now faces selling off property to cover expenses.
Valued at about $114 million, the communal trust holds the land and homes of FLDS members, mostly in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. The FLDS considers communal living a religious principle and formed the trust in 1942 to benefit all who follow the tenets of the church.
The FLDS has given Wisan only marginal cooperation. An effort to settle the management dispute and return control of the trust back to the church failed earlier this year.
Conflicts between Wisan and FLDS members tangled the trust in lawsuits and racked up debt, including nearly $3 million owed to Wisan for fees. More than a half-dozen lawsuits are currently pending and unpaid property taxes have left some land parcels vulnerable to foreclosure.