A 3rd District judge has blocked removal of property from a polygamous enclave at the Utah-Arizona border after a grain elevator, manufacturing building, potato cellar, irrigation pivots and other items vanished without a trace.
Judge Denise P. Lindberg approved a preliminary injunction Wednesday sought by special fiduciary Bruce R. Wisan and instructed him to attempt to retrieve the items and hold those responsible for their removal liable. She also told him to seek an investigation of the Colorado City Police Department's failure to stop the property pilfering.
"I'm very concerned by what appears to be . . . questionable or concerning actions on behalf of the city police," said Lindberg, who also asked the Arizona Attorney General's office to investigate whether officers shirked their duties.
The injunction prohibits removal of any property belonging to the United Effort Plan Trust, which holds virtually all of the land in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., unless approved by Wisan. The order covers all improvements, buildings, fixtures, modular homes, utility systems, irrigation equipment and other affixed items.
The twin towns are home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a polygamous sect of about 8,000 members. The FLDS church is led by Warren Jeffs, who is being sought by Arizona and federal authorities for his alleged role in arranging underage marriages.
The trust, set up in 1942, has been under Wisan's management since last May, when the Utah Attorney General's office successfully argued its assets were in jeopardy because of several pending civil lawsuits against Jeffs and the church.
At that time, the court also froze the trust's assets - an order Wisan said has been ignored. Last May, a metal warehouse used by Cozy Log Home construction company was dismantled and moved onto Hildale City property; it has since disappeared.
Wisan asked for the injunction after receiving reports on Dec. 31 that an FLDS work crew was dismantling a grain elevator at Four Square Milling on Oak Street in Colorado City.
In court Tuesday, Wisan said he asked Colorado City officers to intervene and stop the illegal activity but was told by Chief Fred Barlow the crew had the right to remove the structure.
"They were defending the actions of the work party people," Wisan said.
The elevator and grain augers vanished two days later, though the now useless silos remain.
Isaac Wyler, a former FLDS member, said in court that an "ultramodern" potato cellar and two state-of-the-art chicken coops also have been stripped.
Wisan said the injunction "gives me a little bit more clout" and delivers a stern "thou shall not" message to the FLDS and, more pointedly, to Colorado City police force about his role in preserving and protecting the UEP's assets.
"Now they know we're serious," he said.
"The people look at this as a hostile government takeover," Wisan said. "Basically, they've ignored the court process. They are not supposed to indicate I even exist."