Official picked to monitor punishment in polygamous towns

PHOENIX (AP) – A judge overseeing a religious discrimination case against polygamous communities in Arizona and Utah has appointed an official to monitor municipal decisions involving housing rights and make sure other changes ordered by the court are carried out.

Roger Carter, city manager of Washington, Utah, was appointed to monitor municipal operations in the sister cities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, on behalf of the court. His appointment on Aug. 3 was a response to a 2016 jury verdict that concluded nonbelievers were denied police protection, building permits and water hookups on the basis of religion.

Carter was the last of three outsiders hired to help carry out the court-ordered overhaul of the towns, which are under court supervision for the next decade as punishment for the discrimination verdict.

The towns were accused of serving as an arm of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago.

The civil rights case marked one of the boldest attempts to confront what critics have said was a corrupt regime in both towns. It provided a rare glimpse into the inner workings of secluded towns that are shrouded in secrecy and distrustful of the government and outsiders.

As a court monitor, Carter's responsibilities include reviewing the way the towns handle utility applications and building permits, make changes made to city ordinances, and handle citizen complaints about housing rights.

The overhaul ordered by U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland nearly four months ago called for the appointment of two other officials who would focus on operations in the towns' shared police department.

Jurors at the 2016 trial concluded the towns' officers arrested nonbelievers without probable cause and made unreasonable searches of their property.

The judge also has said police employees communicated with and provided financial assistance for church leader Warren Jeffs while he was a fugitive. Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting girls he considered brides.

Holland previously rejected the U.S. Justice Department's bid to dismantle the police department as a remedy.

Instead, he appointed Robert Flowers, chief of the Santa Clara-Ivins City Police Department in Utah, to serve as a mentor to the chief of the Colorado City Marshal's Office and offer advice on the operations of the agency.

Jim Keith, the police chief of Washington, Utah, will serve as a consultant and help the towns' police department develop new policies on internal affairs investigations and hiring officers, including removing town managers and city council members from a police hiring committee.