A judge has ordered Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to appear in court to discuss how the state will pay millions in past-due fees to the accountant in charge of a polygamous sect's seized property trust.
Third District Judge Denise Lindberg scheduled the Nov. 2 hearing in response to a request filed last week by accountant Bruce Wisan the latest in his efforts to recoup $5.64 million in legal fees and other unpaid debts from managing the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' land trust. The Utah Supreme Court in August affirmed previous court orders that the state should compensate Wisan, who has not been paid in the four years since the FLDS sued over the state's 2005 takeover of the $114 million United Effort Plan (UEP) trust, preventing Wisan from paying himself from the trust.
Wisan still has not been paid, and he claims the Attorney General's Office has said it would make no payment until July 2013 at the earliest.
"The continuing uncertainty as to when the judgment will be paid … has exacerbated the trust's financial crisis," Wisan argued in his request for a hearing.
The $5.64 million payment would need to be authorized by the Legislature in its next regular session in January, lawmakers have said. The amount has amassed primarily from legal costs of assorted court challenges to the state's takeover of the UEP trust, which Shurtleff initiated in 2005 amid allegations of mismanagement by sect leader Warren Jeffs and other FLDS trustees.
After a long and convoluted path through state and federal courts, the trust's fate now rests with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which has yet to decide whether the takeover was legal. U.S. District Judge Dee Benson in 2011 ruled that Shurtleff's takeover violated the separation of church and state. Shurtleff appealed Benson's ruling; all parties are awaiting a decision by the 10th Circuit.
Members of the FLDS meanwhile live on the UEP trust, which holds most of the property in the sect's home base of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting two underage girls he took as wives, but is said to still control the sect from prison.