Overdue bills • Taxpayers could be on hook for $5.5 million.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Utah Supreme Court has refused to block a judge's order requiring the Attorney General's Office to pay more than $5.5 million in debts associated with running a polygamous sect property trust once controlled by Warren Jeffs.
That doesn't mean the taxpayers are on the hook just yet, though. Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has already filed another appeal.
The justices decided the situation didn't need emergency relief rather a " 'plain, speedy and adequate remedy' is available," according to the dismissal order, filed April 19.
State attorneys had filed a petition for extraordinary writ after 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg set a 90-day deadline for the payment, but later extended the time frame, giving Shurtleff more time to argue the order is illegal.
The money is owed to Bruce Wisan, who was appointed to run the United Effort Plan trust after a 2005 state takeover, and his contractors, primarily attorneys.
He was supposed to have been paid from trust assets, but has been blocked from selling trust property since the sect began fighting the takeover in court as legal bills mounted.
Lindberg first ordered Shurtleff to pay the past-due bills, some of which were four years old, last summer.
Even though Shurtleff's office has made one six-figure payment against the debt and is in negotiations to contribute more, state attorneys say the office can't make a lump payment now and shouldn't be required to.
The money, Lindberg said in her ruling, would eventually be repaid to taxpayers if the state prevails in a federal court appeal, keeps the trust in state hands and eventually sells off pieces of it for cash.
The approximately $110 million trust holds nearly all the land, homes and businesses in the sect's home base of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
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