Child labor case tied to FLDS back in court

This February 2016 file photo shows FLDS children on a berm outside the Dairy Store in Hildale, Utah, Feb. 23, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A company with ties to Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on the Utah-Arizona border changed its name and defied an order to stop using child labor in construction jobs, U.S. Department of Labor attorneys alleged Monday.

The allegations, filed last September, are the latest wrinkle in a child labor case that dates to 2007. Federal prosecutors want the company found in contempt.

Testimony at Monday’s evidentiary hearing included allegations that the company that changed its name actually had the same headquarters and employed an executive who worked at both places. Workers for the new company often used the old company name when interviewed at job sites, according to the testimony of government inspectors and a contractor.

Jeff Matura, an attorney for the new company called Par 2 Contractors, argued that the two companies are separate legal entities with distinct owners. The original company, called Paragon Contractors, also disputes the finding.

There’s nothing in the law that says you can’t have two family businesses where people help each other out,” Matura said after the hearing. “There’s nothing in the law that says you can’t have one business that eventually shuts down and another business comes that has employees who worked there. … To succeed they (the government) has to show that Par 2 is Paragon. It is one and the same. We think they are going hard time showing that.”

Paragon was previously ordered to pay $200,000 for back wages to children who picked pecans for long hours in the cold during a 2012 harvest.

In that 2016 order, the judge also ordered Paragon to report every work site location, as well as the identity and ages of all of its employees. Brian Jessop, the company’s owner, was also tasked with reporting any change of employment. The company called the sanctions overreaching and unfair. It has appealed that finding to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The company argued the children were glad to get a break from schoolwork to gather nuts for the needy.

At the first day of the evidentiary hearing in Salt Lake City on the new allegations, labor attorneys sought to lay out evidence to show Par 2 was the successor to Paragon.

Dennis Porter, one of the owners of contracting company that hired the two companies for about eight jobs from 2013-2016, testified that Par 2 and Paragon had the same phone number, address and contact person.

Jeff Wilson, an inspector with the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said during his check of a Par 2 job site in August 2015 in Chandler, Arizona, that workers referred to their company as Paragon.

U.S. Department of Labor investigator Jacob Goehl testified that a Par 2 foreman at a work site on a Marriott hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona, he visited in November 2016 was “cagey” and refused to say how much he was being paid. The investigator said he later found out in reviewing employee records that there were two 17-year-old workers who used power nail guns while working on a roof as framers.

On cross-examination, Goehl conceded employees told him none of the workers were underage.

Another Labor Department official said Par 2 altered records that were subpoenaed to remove the name of Paragon executive Brian Jessop from Par 2 documents.

“They did all that to evade the court orders,” said Karen Bobela, Labor Department attorney. “You can’t evade contempt by changing your business name.”

During cross examination, Matura and fellow attorney Melissa England pressed witnesses about how exactly they came to the conclusion that the two companies were the same. He noted that the citation against Par 2 by the Arizona inspector never mentioned Paragon.

The evidentiary hearing is scheduled to continue Tuesday.

Written by BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

 

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5 Comments

  • Kyle L. February 26, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    They are “bleeding the beast”. That is what they call it when they can take advantage of the government of anything that is against the “holy” teachings of their incarcerated priest. They have no respect for law and believe that it is a mark in their favor to oppose or outwit the law. They need to be jailed and disbanded and treated like terrorists. What they do takes money from the government, e.g. tax payers, and gives it to criminals. They are taught that it is a good thing to screw the government and to take advantage. It is time for them to pay their dues. Jail or forced labor comes to mind.

  • LocalDad February 27, 2018 at 7:01 am

    With respect, I’m sick of seeing these people in the news.

    * It’s clear that all these head-lines are food for a biased and prejudicial demographic.

    I can’t believe the hate we hear from my LDS community about the FLDS community. I don’t know much about their going-ons or what they’re always in the spot-light for, but that whole “protecting the children” and “victim advocacy” rhetoric we’re being fed is total Romneyisque double speak.
    In any other logical world when you have victims that the court seizes property for, or “in the name of the victims,” the victims get that property as restitution. “This is not the case for these kids!” (#truth)

    *This has been a resource grab and the property seized is rightfully the victims. I want to know who ended up with it??? Wouldn’t that be a good headline?

    So, who gets the seized property? Which one of our good ‘ol boys got a real cheap deal from whatever un-announced auction it was secretly sold at, and where did that money go? Who benefited from this? Not you or me, and certainly not the victims– they didn’t get it as they should have.

    And child labor laws? What a crock of poo. We don’t usually buy into all the federal jive about how we here in Utah should raise our children.

    Kids needs job and the FLDS are in no way at fault for trying to teach some kind of work ethics to their young. We would be lucky if more of us taught the value of work to our hyper-entitled offspring. They should be commended for this not turned into hate-feeding head-line.

    I wish I was able to let my own children start clocking time on excavating equipment. I wish I had a couple of cows that my own boys could milk at 4am every morning. One thing I am sure of, it would only help them in life and it would never be worthy of a head-line like this… unless everyone of the “non-judgemental” people didn’t already hate me. This is pandering to hate, it is not news.

    • Real Life February 27, 2018 at 2:40 pm

      What about the FACT that the FLDS children have been sexually abused for years by so called “prophets”? What do you suggest is done about that?

    • Kyle L. February 27, 2018 at 6:00 pm

      There is a difference between learning how to work and what is essentially slave labor. These children are mentally and physically abused throughout their lives. I suggest that you stay quite about things you know nothing about! BTW I do not hate the people I hate the cult and the people who propagate the teachings of the cult in order to gratify their own demented fantasies.

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