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clock Aug 11, 2005 9:03 pm US/Mountain

Arizona Wants Control Of Colorado City Schools

PHOENIX, Arizona Arizona is seeking financial control of a school district serving a polygamist community, alleging �systematic and egregious mismanagement� that included a $200,000 airplane purchase and a landscaping contract worth more than $100,000.

The receivership petition drafted for filing Friday with the state Board of Education also says Colorado City school officials took family members on business trips without reimbursing the 344-student district, and that the district paid for satellite television at an administrator's home.

Colorado City is a secluded northern Arizona community controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that broke away from the LDS church. Sect members also live in neighboring Hildale, Utah.

�What we found in putting together this petition is a very serious story of mismanagement of public money, and the children who attend the schools of the school district in Colorado City ultimately are the victims,� state Attorney General Terry Goddard said.

District Superintendent Alvin Barlow did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

According to the petition, the district is the only one in Arizona with an airplane, a $200,000 Cessna piloted by the son of a governing board member.

The district also granted a $107,700 contract for grounds maintenance at a time when it had only an office building and one school building. Goddard said it appeared a crew of men in a pickup truck spent about an hour a day picking up trash.

The petition says the district spends less than 43 percent of its funding for classroom education, well below the state average of more than 58 percent.

(© 2005 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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