SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah judge reiterated her approval Friday for plans to send eviction notices to people living in Warren Jeffs’ polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border who have collectively failed to pay millions of dollars in occupancy fees for their houses.
The first notices could be sent out in the coming weeks, though it will likely take months before anybody is evicted, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“If people step up and start meeting their obligations, we work with them,” Judge Denise P. Lindberg said during a hearing in Salt Lake City. “If not, then we proceed. We proceed with the evictions.”
Lindberg first came out in favor of the eviction plan a month ago during a different hearing when she said: “We have had a free-rider problem here for a long time. There needs to be action, or otherwise the law means nothing.”
The homes are part of a trust that has been in state control since 2005 because of allegations of mismanagement by Jeffs and other leaders.
Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church and its 15 million members worldwide abandoned the practice in 1890 and strictly prohibit it.
Most of the group’s members in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, have been the ignoring the $100-a-month, per-house fee for years, depriving the trust of millions of dollars, officials said.
The trust should be receiving $75,000 a month, and it is getting only $10,000 to $12,000, said Jeffrey Shields, an attorney representing the accountant who has managed the trust since Utah seized it
A yearly report showed the trust was owed $4.18 million in unpaid occupancy fees at the end of 2013.
Guy Timpson, a Hildale resident who told the Tribune he owes $3,000, said he doesn’t like the fee because it’s unclear how money is being used to manage the trust.
“We want to be a part of our decision making,” Timpson said. “It’s a taxation without representation.”