By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
Alvin Barlow and other administrators and school board members are not about to challenge Jeffs' dictates. FLDS adherents believe Jeffs is God's only true spokesman on Earth. They think those who dare to question Jeffs risk losing their home, job, multiple wives and children, and, worst of all, be cast into hellfire for eternity.
Under Barlow's direction, the district hired scores of FLDS members for unnecessary jobs in order to provide paychecks to church members. The FLDS employees work as staff members, principals, janitors, bus drivers and maintenance workers. They were ordered by Jeffs to have no contact with the teachers and the students at the school -- who were deemed by Jeffs to be evil.
School payroll records I examined reveal that Barlow paid FLDS members far more than the teachers, whose starting pay is slightly more than $18,000 a year. The district has more than 100 employees for 350 students, a ratio much higher than other public schools of its size.
It was obvious that featherbedding would eventually outstrip the district's funds.
Not only did Barlow pack the district with FLDS employees, he orchestrated giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of public school assets to the FLDS church, including several school buildings in which the district forfeited prepaid leases that were financed through bonds.
I also discovered that Barlow and other administrators were illegally using the district's fleet of four-wheel-drive SUVs for private use. Barlow and other administrators also illegally used district credit cards, ringing up more than $20,000 in unpaid personal expenses.
My investigation found that Barlow and administrators traveled relentlessly, often taking their wives and children on trips at district expense.
Travel remains a priority. The district, which has the lowest average teacher pay in the state, bought a $220,000 airplane in 2002 to facilitate trips to dozens of conferences and meetings each year. The aircraft purchase violated state conflict-of-interest laws because the school board's chairman, F. Lee Bistline, voted to buy the plane knowing that it would be operated by his son.
Criminal statutes mean nothing to Jeffs if laws get in the way of practicing a religion based on the teachings of Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith, who first introduced polygamy as church doctrine in the 1830s.
For years, Jeffs lived across the state line in Hildale, Utah, where he reportedly had as many as 70 wives. Sources and records reveal that Jeffs has a penchant for taking underage girls into his harem.
Despite the fact that having sex with an underage girl who is not a legal wife is a felony, Utah has yet to charge Jeffs with child rape.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff says that he was reluctant to arrest Jeffs on child rape charges unless the girls were willing to step forward as victims.
"Without a cooperative witness, we may lose the case, and that will make Jeffs look even more like a god," Shurtleff tells me.
But Shurtleff now says he is reconsidering that position, given that it appears that Jeffs has fled from the Colorado City and Hildale area.
"We don't have the luxury of waiting much longer to make an arrest," he says.
Just last week, reports surfaced about another underage girl who reportedly was seeking to escape from the FLDS after being forced to "marry" Jeffs.
An Arizona criminal investigator questioned the girl on November 17, but she refused to answer questions about whether she was "spiritually" married and where she had been living the last year since she first disappeared from her Colorado City home just after turning 16.
The investigator says he had no choice but to return the girl to her parents' home in Colorado City. But the investigator says he strongly suspects the girl is "married" to Jeffs but is afraid to talk to police.
Arizona and Utah law enforcement agencies are conducting wide-ranging criminal investigations into Jeffs and the FLDS, but they have little to show after several years of investigation. Lawsuits have also been filed, alleging Jeffs also engaged in sexual misconduct with minor boys, among other outrages.
The increased scrutiny has forced Jeffs and his closest disciples to go underground -- just like Mormon polygamists did 120 years ago when the federal government outlawed polygamy in the Utah Territory.
Jeffs' exit strategy from the Colorado City area is now unfolding. He abandoned his palatial home in Hildale and is believed to be living at a 1,600-acre compound under construction in south central Texas near the town of El Dorado.
The flurry of construction at the site is attracting considerable attention from Texas authorities, but they appear to be at a loss as to what to do. More than a dozen large structures have been erected in recent months, and hundreds of men and women have been moved from Colorado City to the Texas location.
Sources say a temple is now being constructed at the Texas compound. If that is true, it is a powerful indication that Jeffs has abandoned Colorado City-Hildale after the twin towns served as the FLDS base for more than 70 years.