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Posted: 5:00 PM- A letter a town marshal wrote then-fugitive polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs for advice warrants his removal from the post, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Administrative Law Judge Diane Mihalsky also found that refusal of Colorado City Town Marshal Fred Barlow and Deputy Preston Barlow to answer questions about Jeffs' whereabouts and other sect leaders amounted to "nonfeasance" of their duties.

Arizona's police board now will decide whether to discipline the two. Options include suspending or revoking their certification as peace officers.

Mihalsky came down hardest on Fred Barlow, citing numerous instances where he failed to carry out his duty, ignored admonishments from Utah and Arizona police boards, and did not seek clarification about the position he and his deputies were in.

"He did nothing to avert the tragic collision of his officers' divided loyalties," she said.

The ruling comes three weeks after a hearing requested by the two men, whose peace officer certifications are under review by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. The investigation was prompted by complaints they had failed to protect the United Effort Plan Trust or cooperate in an Arizona Attorney General's Office investigation.

The UEP Trust holds virtually all property in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

The marshal's office serves both communities, which are home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The men are members of the faith, which is led by Jeffs.

Mihalsky noted that the twin towns were under "unprecedented turmoil" caused by the hunt for Jeffs and a state takeover of the UEP Trust, causing the two officers to be caught between cooperating fully with outside agencies and upholding the trust of their community.

They wrongly believed that the Constitution "somehow protected their sincere and understandable desire to protect their religious leaders and community values," she said.

That doesn't nullify the violation but "their sincere belief may mitigate the penalty if it was reasonable," the judge said.

Mihalsky said that Preston Barlow, who had been in office only a month when he was questioned by attorneys about Jeffs, seemed to be following the lead of more senior deputies.

Preston Barlow also was "more forthcoming" in interviews with representatives of the Arizona police board last summer.

"When Deputy Barlow chose to answer a question, his responses were consistent and credible, with the exception of his testimony that members of the FLDS considered that the names of bishops and other leaders were confidential," Mihalsky said.

The judge found that Fred Barlow's letter was particularly damning. The October 2005 letter was found among papers taken from Seth Jeffs, the FLDS leader's brother, after his arrest that month during a traffic stop in Colorado.

In the letter Fred Barlow swore fealty to Jeffs and asked for advice about hiring and other matters in the marshal's office.

Barlow claimed last month that such "accountability" letters were required of all elders in the FLDS church.

Mihalsky said the letter was not entitled to constitutional or privacy protection and showed his "malfeasance."

The marshal also violated a court order when he refused to answer questions about removal of buildings and property from UEP Trust property, she said.

Mihalsky said that while it is not a crime to communicate with a federal fugitive, Fred Barlow's refusal to answer certain questions about Jeffs and other FLDS members showed an inability to "neutrally enforce the law."

However, Mihalsky said the marshal and deputy did no wrong when they "credibly and consistently" denied knowing Jeffs' whereabouts.

"Although their lack of knowledge may have resulted from the combination of the FLDS' community's limitations on their access to information and their own acquiescence in those limitations, willful ignorance is not a crime," she said.

Nate Carlisle contributed to this report.