Polygamy in Arizona: The Wages of Sin

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Bistline told the crowd that he withdrew his kids from the public schools and put them in private schools because he doesn't "trust" state and federal mandates on how public schools should be run.

The following week, with no one from the public in attendance, the board agreed to construct the replacement school at a cost of $1 million to the district and $6 million to the state. It also approved construction of a $550,000 vocational-education building that would be paid for strictly out of district funds. Vocational education is valued highly by FLDS parents, whose children rarely finish high school.

The construction project was managed by Flagstaff Design & Construction, which issued subcontracts to FLDS-affiliated businesses, district records show. There is no indication that any 2nd Ward businesses received subcontracts. The 60,000-square-foot school and 5,000-square-foot vocational education building were built in record time and opened in August 2002.

But there were immediate problems. The school provided far more space for its few high school students than for its much larger elementary school population. Even before the first elementary students entered the classrooms of the new school, teachers warned Superintendent Alvin Barlow that there would be immediate overcrowding.

"We need to get additional classrooms, for there is absolutely no room for growth in the elementary, yet we are locked into that facility for however long before we can expand," teacher Carol Hammon warned the board at its August 26, 2002, meeting.

Alvin Barlow ignored the space complaints and proceeded with plans to terminate the lease on the Darger building, which of course could have been used for elementary pupils, particularly since its lease was paid for three and a half more years.

"We don't need the Darger building," Alvin Barlow told school board members on September 11, 2002.

Barlow then presented a plan to return the Darger building to the FLDS' Colorado City Improvement Association on terms more favorable to the association than to the district.

A week later, Barlow signed an agreement to return Darger to the association and forfeit $198,700 in lease prepayments that had been made using bond proceeds.

In addition, the district agreed to transfer $108,800 in prepaid Darger lease funds to cover future payments on the bus-maintenance facility and on storage lockers -- also owned by the association.

Like the junior high school and the Broadbent buildings two years before, the Darger building would soon become a private FLDS school.

Two years after Warren Jeffs had issued his call to sever ties with apostates, the Colorado City school district had terminated prepaid leases on three well-equipped school buildings and had waived nearly $330,000 in lease payments.

The school district has one remaining classroom building that occupies Improvement Association property. The district pays a $1,200-a-year land lease for ground beneath the Title I building, which was constructed with federal money awarded to the district for special-education needs.

The district-owned Title I structure was designed to be movable. However, after nearly $500,000 in improvements, district officials say it would cost more to move it than to build a replacement. The building is adjacent to the Broadbent and Darger facilities.

If the district's previous pattern of transferring public school assets to the FLDS continues, it wouldn't be surprising to see the church-controlled Improvement Association obtain the Title I building when the land lease with the district expires on June 30 of this year.

Meanwhile, there are already 350 students at the new school, which opened eight months ago. With a capacity of 600, it won't be long until it's bulging at the seams.

"Our classrooms are [getting] physically maxed out," high school social sciences teacher Jonathon Hammon told the school board in February. "We are not in decline anymore."

Perks of Polygamy

Last August 17, Colorado City school district business manager Jeffrey Jessop loaded up the district's recently purchased $38,000 Ford F-350 pickup truck with another adult and four kids and set out on a cross-country trip to Georgia.

The odyssey was financed by the school district.

The travel was justified as a district expense because Jessop was driving to Georgia to pick up a piece of equipment needed for the school.

That the propane oxygenator seemingly could have been shipped by commercial freight in less time and at lower cost didn't stop Jessop and the gang from hitting the road at 5 p.m. on a Saturday and embarking on a circuitous cross-country route that took them first through Colorado, Kansas City and then northerly to Nauvoo, Illinois.

Once a stronghold of church founder Joseph Smith, Nauvoo looms large in Mormon history. Many Mormons make pilgrimages there at least once in their lives.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty