updated 6/2/2009 5:40:13 PM ET 2009-06-02T21:40:13

A court-appointed accountant has rejected a payment from a polygamous church sect whose properties were taken over by the courts because of alleged mismanagement by their leader, Warren Jeffs.

The $192,600 in delinquent fees is half of what is owed by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for six months of occupancy fees on homes in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

"The payment was made under protest. I don't think we can accept it," accountant Bruce Wisan said Monday.

By paying under protest, the church was seeking to protect its legal right to argue in court against having to pay, said Paul Murphy, a spokesman for Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. An assistant attorney general planned to ask a judge for direction on Tuesday, he said.

Judge  may consider selling homes
The judge said last week she would consider selling the properties if the church did not pay.

The homes in the twin towns and a church enclave in Bountiful, British Columbia, are held in the $114 million United Effort Plan Trust, which was taken over by Utah courts in 2005 because of alleged mismanagement by Jeffs.

Jeffs is serving a prison sentence on a 2007 conviction of accomplice to rape for his role in an arranged marriage involving a then-14-year-old follower in Utah. He is awaiting trial on criminal charges in Arizona and Texas also related to underage marriages.

The FLDS has been negotiating a settlement with the attorneys general of Utah and Arizona and with Wisan, who oversees the trust, to regain control of the UEP's church land.

"As a peaceful people, we believe that settlement is the best way to resolve differences," FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop said in a statement. He acknowledged the payment was made under protest.

Residents of trust homes are required by the court to pay a $100 monthly occupancy fee to Wisan. The FLDS paid the fees for two months last year, but claims that Shurtleff brokered a deal with Wisan in February to forgive the fees during settlement talks and only collect the proceeds of milk sales from a church dairy in Beryl.

Dispute over fees
According to the FLDS, Wisan chose to collect some $100,000 in milk money instead of more than $40,000 in monthly occupancy fees. But Wisan denies making such a deal.

Shurtleff was traveling Monday and unavailable for comment.

The other half of the $385,200 total fees is due June 15 — the same day the parties are to submit a settlement proposal to the judge.

The FLDS follow the early teachings of Joseph Smith Jr., founder of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the practice of polygamy, which is believed to bring glorification in heaven. The mainstream Mormon church abandoned the practice in 1890 as a condition of Utah's statehood.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments