Skip to comments.Cost of Polygamist Case Tops $7 Million
Posted on 06/04/2008 4:25:34 PM PDT by FreeInWV
Removing 460 children from a polygamist sect compound and then reuniting them with their families will cost Texas $7 million, according to the state Department of Family and Protective Services.
The children were ordered returned to their families this week after the Texas Supreme Court found that the state did not have enough evidence to show that abuse was happening at the Yearning for Zion ranch near Eldorado.
Custody Battle Over Sect ChildrenMike Stone, ReutersA woman and two children from a polygamist sect in Eldorado, Texas, prepare to return home Tuesday after sect children were ordered reunited with their families. The order followed a Texas Supreme Court ruling that authorities had no grounds to remove 460 children from the sect.
The price tag includes costs from fighting a court battle to retain custody of the children, attempting to determine their parentage through DNA testing and reuniting the children with their parents.
The $7 million does not include more than $500,000 in estimated costs incurred by local governments whose law enforcement agencies were involved in the April 3 ranch raid, according to a budgetary presentation given to Texas lawmakers last month.
The raid was prompted by an anonymous caller who claimed that men at the ranch were involved in sexual relationships with young girls.
The ranch is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a Mormon offshoot that practices polygamy. Child welfare officials said they found a "pervasive pattern" of sexual abuse through forced marriages between underage girls and older men. FLDS members have denied that any sexual abuse occurred and say they are being persecuted because of their religion.
Albert Hawkins, executive commissioner of Texas Health and Human Services, told the state Senate Finance Committee that as of May 15, the state had spent more than $5.2 million to provide food, shelter and counseling to the FLDS children. The bulk of those costs included employee overtime and transportation, Hawkins said.
Meanwhile, a state district judge told senators that legal costs in the case had topped $2.2 million. Most of that burden falls on Tom Green County, where the district court hearings were taking place, and Schleicher County, where the ranch is located, said Judge Ben Woodward, according to a Senate statement.
Neither county, Woodward said, has the money to cover the legal costs. "We're at a point now where we're going to start limping along pretty badly," he said.
The court costs estimate, presented to the Senate on May 20, does not appear to reflect the cost of an appeal handled by the Texas 3rd District Court of Appeals. The appeals court overturned the district court's ruling that the children should remain in state custody.
For comparison, $7 million would pay for 137 police officers in the city of Mesquite, Texas, at a salary of $51,060, according to a figure from a job posting. It would also pay for 180 new teachers at the average statewide salary of $38,857 given by the Texas State Board for Educator Certification and would more than double resources available for a state program aimed at children of incarcerated parents, according to the state's budget for fiscal 2008-09. In that budget, the program receives $5 million.
Texas Child Protective Services referred all questions about the costs of the operation to the state's Health and Human Services department. In response to the Texas Supreme Court ruling last week, CPS said in a statement that it "has one purpose in this case: to protect the children. Our goal is to reunite families whenever we can do so and make sure the children will be safe."
The removal of the children was thought to be the largest child protection case in the nation's history. If they had remained in state custody, Hawkins told lawmakers, the estimated monthly cost for their care would have been $1.3 million.
District Judge Barbara Walther, who decided after a chaotic hearing last month that the state would retain custody of the children, also ordered DNA testing to identify parents and children, as child protection officials said they were thwarted by FLDS members who gave them conflicting or misleading information about their names, ages and familial ties.
Those DNA test results, obtained by a North Carolina lab, were beginning to come in Tuesday, the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General's Office said. The lab was starting to deliver reports to the court, the office said, and CPS should have them by the end of the week.
Some 599 DNA samples were taken, the office said. Of those, only 36 were of adult males. Now that the children are being returned, CPS will decide how to use the results in its continuing case involving its oversight of the FLDS.
State Sen. Steve Ogden told officials during the hearing that the final costs would probably be more than the estimated figures presented.
"The cost of this operation is going to be a lot more than is on this sheet of paper," he said. "It doesn't reflect what is going on now, and there are huge legal costs out there that we haven't even discussed yet."
He asked officials to rework their analyses of future costs so the state isn't caught by surprise when the next legislative session begins in January.
However, all that is largely a moot point now, as FLDS children were allowed to reunite with their families beginning Monday. Though the state Supreme Court upheld the ruling that the state had no right to seize the 460 children, the justices said that court oversight of the FLDS could be accomplished through other means.
Also during the hearing, state Sen. Bob Duell questioned whether Texas could force FLDS adults to bear some of the costs. However, given the subsequent court decisions, it appears unlikely the FLDS could be forced to bear any financial responsibility.
To those familiar with FLDS history, the raid called to mind a 1953 mass arrest in the hamlet of Short Creek on the Utah-Arizona state line. More than 400 FLDS members were arrested and more than 200 children taken into foster care. However, news photographs of wailing mothers and children won public sympathy, and the raid backfired on then-Arizona Gov. Howard Pyle, who ordered it. In the next election, Pyle was voted out of office.
"For 50 years, [the FLDS] used the Short Creek raid as [a] reason to keep their people secretive and isolated," Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told the Los Angeles Times in a story Saturday. "We said that was not going to happen again. Well, it has happened again."
Eldorado residents, meanwhile, expressed frustration with the outcome of the raid and the court's finding that the state had no right to remove the children.
"I said from the word go, if there's sex with underage girls, nail their butt," Curtis Griffin, owner of the local fuel depot, told the Los Angeles Times. "But nail the right people. We're going to wind up with a $30 million bill here in this little county because these people didn't have their ducks in a row."
I am shocked about that. Shocked, I tell you!
I think that she will retire. The retirement package for Judges is very nice.
I would love to see charges brought against the Judge and the CPS, but I know how the system works. If anything, the CPS will get a bigger budget next year, so that they can prevent something like this from ever occurring again.
Some of those were probably teenage boys whose exact ages were not known when the samples were taken. Plus a handful who turned 18 while in foster care. I know at least 2 boys turned 18 while in foster care, and last I read, they’d both elected to stay in state care even after being told they were free to leave since they’d become adults (I assume they are no longer in state care, now that all the children in foster homes have left).
The number 8 came from the people collecting the DNA. That was the number of men who showed up within the first week or so. That was not the purported number who showed up by the time they quit taking sammples. I had never seen the final number before.
36 means there were 50 or so who didn’t show up for DNA testing. Now I wonder why that is.
Lets not forget that colorcountry is/was Mormon.
Its polite to ping the freeper when you speak of them.
I am not a Baptist, although I have nothing against Baptist.
Are you lying for the Lord again, Legrande? I don’t thing you have a modicum of truthfulness in you, athiest. And why would you?
Well at least the kids weren’t waterboarded, I guess.
Yeah I have seen where colorcountry has claimed to be a Mormon when it suits her purposes. I have also seen her post pictures of her Baptist Grandkids and talk about attending a Baptist Church.
Nah, you just post pictures of your Baptist Grandkids and attend a Baptist Church. You have also claimed to be a Mormon too, I guess your religion depends on which day of the week it is.
Are you lying for the Lord again, Legrande? I dont thing you have a modicum of truthfulness in you, athiest. And why would you?
Are you denying attending a Baptist Church? LOL
LOL. Two of my grandkids are Mormon. One has no religion, and two are Catholic. and YES I am denying that I attend a Baptist Church. Never have I said that I am a Baptist, however I have attended services in a Baptist Church, I have attended Vigil at a Catholic Church, I have attended services at an Assembly of God Church, and several different Non-Denominational Churches.
You are either lying about me, or mistaken. Since you freely whisper behind my back, I'll let the reader make the decision as to your possible motivation.
Then what religion are you colorcountry? Or do you just pick and choose based on which way the wind is blowing?
I am a Christian, and I belong to no denomination. ...Except that Mormons think I am one of them for some reason. They seem to have reached some sort of road-block on their way to removing me from their rolls.
But, why? I'm not familiar with the teachings of either church.
Usually, I stay away from the religious forums. I became interested in the FLDS story and began to notice the animosity, especially in Saundra Duffy's posts, for example:
"I want to know if this judge is a Baptist. The reason Im asking is because they used Baptist buses to cart away the children and Baptists volunteered to care for the children after they were rounded up at gunpoint. Furthermore, I want to know how many of the law enforcement thugs who went in there were Baptists . . . thinking they are doing God a great big favor!"
Personally, I thought it was very nice for the Baptist church to offer its buses on a school day when school buses were transporting school children, but some took that as offensive. Why?
Order for DNA Parentage Testing
I think you missed the point that Huckabee was seen as stirring the pot against the Mormons for political purposes, when he made comments against the FLDS. Many of the anti-FLDS posters were former Hucksters, or were influenced by the Hucksters.
The court order for DNA testing is not at your link.
However, it does include a snippet, saying that all children have now been picked up, and I thank you for providing that.
I was waiting to see if any went unclaimed, because it would have been strong evidence that some parents, as has been claimed, are not actually related to their supposed children.
It seems that didn’t happen.
But I didn’t know if it would, so I was curious to see what would happen.
Hmm, lets change the wording a little : )
"Personally, I thought it was very nice for the Baptist church to offer its buses to transport Jews to be gassed on a school day when school buses were transporting school children, but some took that as offensive. Why?"
It all depends on your point of view. If you think that taking the children away from their parents was a good thing then yes the Baptists did a good humane thing. If you think that taking Children away from their parents is an evil and vile thing to do then anyone who aids them is doing an evil and vile thing too. Now is it clear?
Yes, it is. On the side bar, under Court Documents.
Affidavit in Support of Original Petition for Protection of a Child
Affidavit for Search and Arrest Warrant
Order for Investigation of Child Abuse
Order Authorizing Appointment of a Court Appointed Special Advocate
State’s Motion to Transfer Seized Property (1)
State’s Motion to Transfer Seized Property (2)
Court Order Removing Cell Phones
Order for DNA Parentage Testing
Order on Placement of Children
Petition for Protection of Children in an Emergency
Bishop’s Record listing families of the YFZ Ranch
Order Appointing Special Prosecutor
Copy of the CPS service plan that was handed out to the FLDS Members. Document courtesy of Deseret Morning News
Mandamus Decision ruling CPS did not have right to remove children from YFZ ranch
Summary of the Mandamus Decision ruling CPS did not have right to remove children from YFZ ranch
Texas State Supreme Court Petition for Writ of Mandamus
Texas State Supreme Court Motion for Emergency Relief
Response to Motion for Emergency Relief
Copy of the search warrant for Warren Jeffs DNA
Some posters here would have rather seen the children chained to each other and marched into town rather then get on a Baptist bus. Why is that?