Washington County official picked to monitor punishment in polygamous towns

Published on August 11, 2017 at 02:04PM

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.