The court-appointed special fiduciary for the United Effort Plan Trust is engaging in a "sociological and psychological war" with its beneficiaries, lawyers for Fundamentalist LDS Church members claim in newly filed court documents.
They note a November 2007 time entry for one of the fiduciary's attorneys about reviewing a DVD of a jailhouse conversation FLDS leader Warren Jeffs had in which he renounced being a prophet. UEP trust lawyer Jeffrey L. Shields' notation detailed a phone conversation with UEP fiduciary Bruce Wisan and a strategy session on "how to use the DVD in the sociological and psychological war with the beneficiaries of the Trust."
"Regardless of how the parties got to this point, the current situation mandates some form of intervention and supervision from the court," FLDS attorney Rod Parker wrote. "Meaningful supervision of the fiduciary's perceived 'sociological and psychological war with the beneficiaries' is essential."
Contacted by the Deseret News on Tuesday, Shields said any war was not started by the fiduciary.
"Warren started the war. We're defending the war," he said. "I think there's a sociological and psychological war, but we didn't start it ... we're defending the trust."
He pointed to edicts Jeffs issued, telling his followers to refuse to cooperate with the reformed trust and evictions of those would not follow FLDS orders. Jeffs, 52, was convicted of rape as an accomplice for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
Parker is representing FLDS members Willie Jessop, Dan Johnson and Merlin Jessop, who are seeking to halt the fiduciary's authority to sell any UEP property. The trust, with an estimated $110 million in assets, was taken over by the courts in 2005 amid allegations that Jeffs and other FLDS leaders mismanaged it.
After years of relative silence, FLDS members are challenging some of the court-ordered reforms and the fiduciary's authority. In a letter to 3rd District Judge Denise P. Lindberg, Willie Jessop accepted an invitation to serve on the UEP's board of advisers which has had no participation from FLDS faithful.
"Although I would prefer a constructive board, and not one that appears to have the purpose of destroying the FLDS religion, I have decided to accept that invitation," Jessop wrote. "I would also like to suggest Jake Barlow to fill the other board vacancy."
Jessop said Wisan has surrounded himself with "hateful, spiteful people who use misleading information as to what the court's intent is." He offered to facilitate a meeting between the judge and the FLDS people. The board includes ex-FLDS members. Past community meetings organized by the fiduciary to detail changes to the UEP have been sparsely attended, with little or no input from the FLDS.
It wasn't for lack of trying, the Arizona Attorney General's Office said. In a response to Parker's court filings, assistant attorney general Randy Hunter detailed a long list of efforts the fiduciary made to notify the community of changes to the trust.
"Despite all this notice, the movants have for years failed to act," he wrote, adding that it has cost the states thousands in legal bills to enact changes.
The Utah Attorney General's Office wrote that the fiduciary serves at the discretion of the court and suggested any court oversight on property transactions be limited to sales over $100,000. The UEP Trust is land rich, but cash poor. Wisan has considered selling property to pay some of the bills that come with administering the trust.
The trust was originally based on the early Mormon concept of a "united order," where members place everything in a common pot that is doled out according to "just wants and needs."
Parker wrote in court documents that the trust beneficiaries must have a voice when they believe the fiduciary's actions compromise the trust's ability to provide for their "just wants and needs.""This court cannot allow the trust to be administered in a manner whereby it becomes an unmonitored weapon which is ... used to attack the beneficiaries it was created to support and protect," he wrote.