This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Hildale • Yes, the town government here takes direction from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Vincen Barlow swears, no matter what he said before.
Vincen there are so many Barlows in Hildale you're better off just calling him by his first name became Hildale's recorder in 2009 and watched the then-city manager "seek guidance from Lyle Jeffs on city government business," Vincen said in affidavit he signed this year. Lyle Jeffs is an FLDS bishop in Hildale and the man thought to be running the day-to-day operations of the polygamous sect.
When Vincen became the Hildale city manager in 2011, he was told by his predecessor that he was expected to give Jeffs a report on city business at least once a month, including what happened in closed City Council meetings and legal strategies, according to the affidavit.
"Our goal wasn't really to deceive," Vincen told The Salt Lake Tribune recently. "It was to protect ourselves and protect the city and protect the church."
Now out of the church and out of his city job, Vincen, 45, is scheduled to be a witness for the U.S. Department of Justice when its discrimination lawsuit against Hildale and adjoining Colorado City, Ariz., goes to trial in January. Of all the former FLDS members who have become witnesses for the government in the past few years, Vincen is best poised to describe how the two governments allegedly followed church instructions and discriminated against people out of favor with the FLDS. In addition to his municipal posts, Vincen served on the church's security force.
His affidavit does not list specific actions the towns executed at the church's behest nor did Vincen want to discuss such specifics during his interview with The Tribune, given in Hildale's Maxwell Park over a lunch of takeout barbecue. But Vincen made clear he has such specifics and intends to testify to them.
"Let's just put it this way," Vincen said. "I've been granted immunity."
Career change • Vincen was born and raised in Hildale and Colorado City, collectively known as Short Creek. He studied accounting for two years at Southern Utah University and then worked in manufacturing. In 1995, someone asked if he wanted to work at the electrical utility operated by Colorado City. Vincen followed custom and asked then-FLDS President Rulon Jeffs if he thought that was a good idea. Jeffs thought it would be a wise career change, Vincen said, so Vincen went to work maintaining the power grid. The next year, he moved into the billing department.
A succession of advancements in Colorado City government followed. Along the way, Vincen married. (He says she is his only wife.) Today the couple have seven children. Lyle Jeffs took one of Vincen's half sisters, Dianabel Barlow, as a plural wife.
In 2009, Hildale's then-mayor, David Zitting, asked Vincen to become Hildale's recorder. The recorder at the time was a woman, and Vincen said Zitting didn't like a woman telling him what needed to be done.
This time, Vincen said, he made sure the career move was OK with Lyle Jeffs, who told him: "Yes, go do that. Take the pressure off that dear lady."
Two years later, Hildale City Manager Jeremiah "Jerry" Barlow took a sabbatical to go on a church mission. Jerry recommended Vincen replace him and gave him the instructions about how to keep Lyle apprised.
After one more check with Jeffs, Vincen had the job. Jerry elected to retire rather than return from sabbatical and Vincen would remain city manager about 3½ years. It paid about $48,000 a year good money in Short Creek.
Vincen said that while the towns make decisions to benefit the church and follow Warren and Lyle Jeffs, city employees rarely evoke their names and never write them down. The rationale for decisions is implicit, Vincen said.
"There was nothing there that would say, 'Lyle said to do this,' " Vincen explained. "It would be, 'Let's do this and this and this.' "
If it was an ordinance, zoning issue, budget or some other matter that required approval of Hildale's City Council, Vincen said, he briefed each member before the meeting to tell them which way to vote. He met with council members one at a time, he said, because visiting with them all at once would violate Utah's public meeting laws.
All in, then out • About the time Vincen became city manager, Lyle and his older brother, FLDS President Warren Jeffs, were starting a new elite subset within the FLDS. It was called the United Order. The faithful FLDS could enter if they attended church, followed Warren Jeffs' edicts on things such as diet and refraining from viewing outside media, and passed an interview with Lyle Jeffs during which he asked them about sins they committed and personal questions about hygiene and sexual proclivities.
Vincen said he was baptized into the United Order on a Friday in November 2011, after a church service at an old grade school where he had to listen to seven hours of Warren Jeffs' recorded sermons. On Monday afternoon, Vincen was driving to St. George on town business when he received a cellphone call from someone working for Lyle Jeffs.
Lyle wanted Vincen in church security, and a security meeting was about to start. It was the middle of the afternoon, and Vincen blew off his work for Hildale, turned around and went to the FLDS meetinghouse in Colorado City.
Most of what church security does is watch for outside law enforcement and people who were out of favor with FLDS leaders people dubbed apostates and warn the leaders when people in Short Creek interact with either. Vincen said security meetings consisted of being shown a photo lineup of people the church didn't like. Vincen said he spent his first three months in security sitting in his pickup truck at any hour of the day or night either watching the state highway that runs through Short Creek or the bishop's storehouse.
Vincen had a radio and a computer he could use to contact a control center in the meeting house if he saw sheriff's deputies or apostates entering town. Then Vincen spent two months in the control room monitoring the dozens of cameras the FLDS had on public and private property.
Something else • Meanwhile, Vincen said, he was growing weary of life under the Jeffs family. Warren would ban food such as beans and milk one week then reverse himself the next. Warren banned sex between spouses. Vincen, a lifelong angler, wasn't even to go fishing anymore without permission from the bishop's office. (Vincen fished without permission anyway.)
In June 2012, Vincen said, a church leader during Sunday service read 50 to 60 names of men and women accused of various, vague transgressions such as murder of unborn children or having evil in their hearts. The accused were evicted from the faith.
Neither Vincen's name nor the name of his wife were on the list, but seeing people he knew accused, insulted and separated from their faith and families was enough for Vincen.
"It stopped being my religion," Vincen said, "and started being something else."
Vincen quit going to security meetings. He stopped attending church.
At first, Vincen said, nothing happened at work. Many of his co-workers may not have even known he had separated himself from the faith. But he stopped going to the morning prayer meetings held by town employees, he said, and he slowly felt shunned by co-workers even though he technically supervised most of them.
"I didn't treat them like I used to," Vincen acknowledged. "I wasn't jumping through the same hoops they were jumping through."
Vincen believes the only reason the city didn't terminate him was because of the legal troubles Hildale and Colorado City were already facing.
Testimony • In 2010, Ron and Jinjer Cooke filed a discrimination lawsuit against the two towns and their utilities. The Cookes, who did not follow the Jeffses, had tried for two years to get a water and sewer hookup for a home they built in Colorado City. Arizona joined the lawsuit. The current U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit is an outgrowth of evidence uncovered in the Cooke case.
Vincen said he didn't have much to do with the utility denials, though he could have intervened on the Cookes' behalf if he had been inclined. He didn't dare. The Jeffs brothers did not want the Cookes in town, he explained, and if Vincen had been caught helping them "my a was grass.".
Lawyers for the Cookes deposed a slew of municipal employees, including Vincen. He was asked pointed questions about relationships between the municipal governments and the FLDS.
Vincen said he lied during the depositions, denying any question that sought to prove the towns benefited the church. Even though he had left the church, Vincen wanted to keep his job, continued to feel a kinship to the people still in the FLDS and the municipal governments he worked at for so long. Besides, Vincen suspected the Cookes weren't sincere; that they were pushing at the behest of people who wanted to target the towns.
Vincen's answers under oath didn't help Hildale and Colorado City. The federal jurors, who in 2014 heard weeks of testimony in Phoenix about the towns and how the Cookes had by then spent five years hauling their own sewage and water, awarded the couple $5 million. All sides later settled the case for $3 million.
At his interview in Maxwell Park, Vincen said he is friendly with the Cookes, though they have never talked about the case and he has never apologized.
The Cookes' lawyer, Bill Walker, said his clients aren't angry. Walker said figures such as Vincen deserve some sympathy; they believe their salvation is tied to the will of Warren Jeffs.
"Does that mean they're absolved of responsibility? No," Walker said. "But you do have some sympathy for them."
The weight • One of Vincen's half brothers, Helaman Barlow, who at the time of the trial was the chief marshal in the two towns, has said he left the FLDS before the Cooke trial and has admitted he lied under oath during depositions and at the Cooke trial, too. Vincen said he and Helaman knew that after the Cooke trial, the towns would go after them.
Vincen contends they went after Helaman first, accusing him of having beer on his breath when he arrived for a deposition and writing him up for minor transgressions. When Helaman went to the Justice Department in April 2014 and admitted he had earlier lied, that became a new reason to fire him.
Helaman was fired in September 2014. Vincen knew he would be next. So he resigned the next month.
"It was just weighing on me too much," Vincen said.
Helaman told Vincen he needed to get an attorney and go to the Justice Department.
Lawyers for Hildale and the Department of Justice both declined to comment.
The lawyers for Hildale and Colorado City in court documents and in interviews have argued employees of Hildale and Colorado City have the right to their religion; that the Justice Department must show specific violations of the law and then must show a pattern that caused injury to people alleging discrimination.
Meanwhile, Vincen is working in construction framing. His wife and children followed him out of the FLDS, but the couple recently separated. The stress of the past few years had taken a toll on the marriage, Vincen said.
He hopes the trial helps bring Hildale closer to being a fair town one he would be proud to manage again.
"I'd go back to it under certain circumstances."