A Mohave County Supervisor said the recent expulsion of at least a dozen Colorado City elders, including the town’s mayor, from the Arizona Strip town could make for a volatile situation.
“It appears the church is imploding by itself,” said Supervisor Buster Johnson. “I don’t know what the final outcome will be. But it is very tense up there right now. The sheriff’s departments on both sides of the border are monitoring the situation.”
Supervisor Pete Byers said he was concerned about the constitutional separation of church and state in Colorado City.
“We need to keep our eye on it because it looks like a big explosion,” said Byers. “That’s a very serious thing.”
On Monday, Paul Murphy, a spokesman for the Utah attorney general, said at least 12 men living in the polygamous towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., had been ordered to leave the community without their wives and children. Colorado City mayor Dan Barlow was one of the men ordered to leave during a meeting that took place Saturday morning.
A spokesperson at the Colorado City Town Hall confirmed Monday that Barlow, 71, resigned as mayor.
Murphy said several community members informed his office of Saturday’s purge, but acknowledged that “we’re not sure exactly what’s happened.”
An attorney representing the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints discounted media reports that sect prophet Warren Jeffs excommunicated the men.
“It’s my understanding it was short of excommunication,” said Rodney Parker, adding he did not believe they had been asked to leave town.
Byers, who spoke with Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard Monday about the situation, said he was told that Barlow and at least eight others were asked to rise before the congregation.
“They had a bunch of them stand up and they were told that they were excommunicated,” Byers said. “What I was told and read was that they were told to be out of their houses and (to) get off the church trust property.”
Colorado City and Hilldale, which are predominantly populated of members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, have been the subject of several allegations regarding sexual assault, incest and welfare fraud.
Officials in Mohave County and Washington County, Utah, have suggested building a justice center in the area that would include social services and law enforcement.
The Associated Press and writer Dave Hawkins contributed to this report.
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