A new report filed in federal court in Arizona finds the governments of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz., have made significant improvements under reforms ordered in the wake of a Justice Department lawsuit.
The town governments were sued by the feds, accused of discriminating against non-members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church. The towns’ police force was accused of being more loyal to imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs than they were to the people they were supposed to be serving.
A jury ruled against the towns and a judge put them under 10 years of oversight by a court-appointed monitor. The monitor is submitting reports roughly every 90 days to update the judge on changes being made. This latest one marks the second year of oversight.
In the latest report, obtained by FOX 13 on Saturday, the monitor reported that the police force was hiring new officers and conducting anti-discrimination trainings. Newly hired police chief Mark Askerlund has been very cooperative, the monitor reported.
For the first time, Colorado City has subdivided property. Previously, land in Hildale and Colorado City was communal under the United Effort Plan Trust, the real-estate holdings arm of the FLDS Church. A judge in Utah took control of that in 2004 over allegations Jeffs and other FLDS leaders mismanaged it and it’s been under oversight with an eye for subdividing it for the past decade.
“As we move into the second year of monitoring and with the initial injunction items having been implemented, the direction of the communities is shifting to involve the creation of new codes and processes in land-use, utility practices, and governance issues. This is a good sign of development and progress; however, this is also a monumental task,” the report states.
It’s causing a little anxiety amongst some, the report hinted, but the monitor believed it will bring stability to local government and services in the area.
“The subdivision of the community will provide a path forward for inclusive home ownership for all individuals,” he wrote, later adding: “Policymaking can, at times, be challenging in all cities but is additionally challenged here due to the culture and history of the area.”
In 2017, Hildale elected its first woman and ex-FLDS mayor. Earlier this year, the council completely secularized when the last FLDS members quit. The communities’ populations have shifted significantly over the years with many FLDS faithful leaving for places scattered across Utah and ex-members moving back home.
Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop and the new council have pushed for economic development and infrastructure improvements. Hildale has dropped an appeal of the Justice Department’s lawsuit, accepting the court-ordered reforms and leaving Colorado City alone to fight it.