Hildale drops appeal of federal court decision in discrimination lawsuit

Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop and council members address questions during City Council meeting, Hildale, Utah, May 16, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

HILDALE — Mayor Donia Jessop announced at Wednesday’s Hildale City Council meeting that the city is dropping its appeal of a federal court ruling that it and its sister city of Colorado City, Arizona, had discriminated against residents who were not members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which had controlled the community.

Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop and council members address questions during City Council meeting, Hildale, Utah, May 16, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“After months of careful deliberation, the city of Hildale has unanimously decided, in the best interest of the city, to withdraw its appeal,” Jessop said.

She added that the decision will allow the city to move forward, to heal and to prosper, as well as to “establish trust with our partners in the state and federal government.”

In a series of lawsuits and court filings that began in 2012, federal and state officials accused the towns of denying housing and municipal services to residents who lived outside the sect and used the police to enforce the alleged discrimination.

Although the two cities are bound in the joint appeal, each was allowed to make an individual decision, Hildale City Attorney Christian Kesselring said during the meeting.

City officials will be working with Colorado City and the Department of Justice to arrange terms of the dismissal, he added.

Hildale City Attorney Christian Kesselring addresses questions regarding the city withdrawing its appeal of a federal ruling, Hildale, Utah, May 16, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Colorado City is expected to proceed with the appeal on its own, Kesselring said. Colorado City officials did not indicate their intentions during the council meeting, but Jessop said they are “supportive of our efforts.”

The judge in the case issued an injunction requiring Hildale to enact significant changes to its operations, ordinances, regulations, policies and procedures, as well as to subject itself to ongoing court oversight over a 10-year period.

“We don’t have a church here that rules over us, and I don’t see that ever happening again,” Jessop said.

Other lawsuits against Hildale and those against the Colorado City Marshal’s Office for wrongful arrests, were settled, costing the towns and their insurers millions of dollars.

Wednesday’s decision to drop the appeal means that Hildale will continue to pay the remaining settlement costs awarded to plaintiffs in the case.

Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop and council members address questions during City Council meeting, Hildale, Utah, May 16, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“We’ll take our lumps, deal with what the court has already decided and be done with it,” Councilman Jvar Dutson said.

Part of the court’s requirements include having a monitor and a mentor to oversee Hildale and the Marshal’s Office.

In other action at Wednesday’s meeting, two City Council seats, left vacant after the recent resignation of the last two FLDS council members, were filled. Nine candidates expressed their vision for Hildale’s future to council members and the large crowd in attendance.

The candidates spoke of increasing the town’s growth and the potential for a thriving tourism industry, while at the same time protecting the small-town feel that has drawn visitors to the area for years.

Stacy Seay and Lawrence Barlow were selected to join Maha Layton, Jared Nichol and Dutson on the City Council.

Barlow said public safety and economic development are priorities, with economic development being “of profound importance.” Seay said she envisions “a home-grown community centered around parks, trails and outdoor activities.”

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • tcrider May 18, 2018 at 8:34 am

    I am betting a similar lawsuit against city of Saint George with the lds faith is possible
    in future.
    It is surprising what a little bit of first amendment training could do for some of our
    city employees.

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