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Mayor in Utah Survives Effort to Erase Town

December 20, 1990|PATT MORRISON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DENVER — The Utah town of Big Water was still in business Wednesday, the day after some of its citizens failed to get rid of their polygamist libertarian mayor when a measure to get rid of the town was voted down.

The vote against disincorporation stood at 101 to 71, including a dozen challenged votes, "but with only 12 votes, it wouldn't have made any difference," said Dave Hansen, Utah's deputy lieutenant governor.

Hansen's office joined the attorney general's office in sending election monitors to Big Water after charges of illegal registration and vote fraud in a 1989 election deepened an abiding schism in this dusty retirement town of fewer than 400 people, where 54-year-old Alex Joseph has been mayor since the town incorporated in 1983.

The disincorporation election was not because of Joseph's libertarian politics or even his polygamy--as embarrassing as that is for the town's image, said retired businessman Earl Tucker, a leader of the disincorporation campaign. Rather, it was over concern that Joseph, his nine wives and various relatives and friends were getting a "stranglehold" on the town, holding most public offices and local businesses, and doling out a good chunk of the town's paying contract jobs to family or friends, Tucker said.

Joseph said they do the jobs because no one else is willing or qualified.

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