Colorado City plan sparks debate
State Sen. Linda Binder and District 3 Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson reacted with skepticism Tuesday to a letter sent to Binder by Board Chairman Pete Byers regarding Colorado City.

Byers’ letter was sent on the heels of the Board’s 3-0 decision Monday to move forward in locating a county law enforcement facility in or near Colorado City in an effort to investigate alleged cases of polygamy, sexual assault and child abuse. The facility would include space for related state agencies such as Child Protective Services and the Attorney General’s Office.

In the letter, Byers requests Binder’s assistance in finding funding and non-profit assistance in setting up a "safe house" for victims who want to report assaults.

"This is the first interest Pete Byers has ever shown in the Colorado City situation," said Binder, R-Lake Havasu City. "He has never shown the slightest interest in even educating himself on the issue."

Byers’ letter refers to a meeting attended by Binder and Johnson with officials in Utah about the alleged abuse in Colorado City, which straddles the Arizona-Utah border.

"For the record, the County still has never received any official correspondence from you or other participants of the recent ‘Summit Meeting’ in Utah," the letter read. "Neither the Board of Supervisors, nor I, whose Supervisory district includes Colorado City, was invited to the meeting."

Binder called the tone of the letter "arrogant" and said there was already a developing plan of action to begin addressing the situation.

"Seeing that the other members (of the board) had never shown the slightest interest, I worked with Buster and it was the suggestion of the Utah attorney general and (Arizona Attorney General) Terry Goddard (for us) to be part of their negotiations," Binder said. "It wasn’t my summit. It was their summit."

Johnson questioned the timing of Byers’ letter, agreeing with Binder that the board chairman and District 2 Supervisor Tom Sockwell have had many opportunities in the past to work toward a solution.

"You have to wonder about their motives," Johnson said. "It’s real easy to make those statements now about how much he cares. In his three years in office this is the first time he has even made any mention of the women in Colorado City and their welfare — either the other supervisors or anybody at the county level."

"I have been copied on e-mails sent to them about this by advocacy groups and they never even responded. You have to wonder where their true feelings lie."
As for Byers’ request for Binder’s assistance in finding funding for a safe house, Binder said other avenues are already being pursued.

"Buster and I had a meeting in my office last week with the U.S. Attorney, the U.S. Marshal, the Utah attorney general and somebody from Terry Goddard’s staff," she said. "We are all pretty much on the same page about the best way to proceed but there are some things we just can’t make public yet. We don’t want to set ourselves up for failure. For 50 years these women and children have been intimidated and frightened and they are followed everywhere they go. We have a lot of concern and thoughtfulness for their safety."
Originally published November 19, 2003