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Government goof: Sanpete County sold Gunnison man's land in error

Evan Quilter talks with KSL's Matt Gephardt. Sanpete County apparently erroneously sold some of Quilter's family property back in 1986. (Tanner Siegworth, KSL-TV)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

GUNNISON — Right off the main highway in Gunnison is some land that has been in Evan Quilter's family for a few generations. But a big chunk of it was sold off. Evan's family did not sell it; Sanpete County did, saying that taxes on the land hadn't been paid.

"It is a mistake they made quite a few years ago," Quilter said.

Way back in 1986, the county seemingly goofed, which the county attorney acknowledged in a letter Quilter provided to the KSL Investigators.

The property taxes "were not delinquent," the county attorney wrote. "The property got on the tax delinquent list by mistake and was sold by mistake."

"You can't do that," Quilter said. "It's illegal to sell my property."

Thirty four years later, it remains an ongoing dispute. Quilter's family still does not have their land back.

It's become a major problem now. Quilter's brother is sick, and he says they want to sell the land but, with the ongoing dispute, they cannot.

Years of asking the county to unwind its mistake has gotten them nowhere, Quilter says.

"So gosh, Matt, I don't know what to tell you," Quilter said. "It's just, they know what the problem is and they just refused to do it."

The current Sanpete County attorney, Kevin Daniels, wouldn't offer many specific details on this issue because, he says, Quilter has threatened litigation.

He did say that if Quilter can convince the people who bought the land to come in with him to a commissioner meeting, they could probably get things straightened out.

"We don't plan on litigating this case in the media," Daniels said. "I'm going to be scant on facts. Other than that, they can certainly come in, we'd be happy to sit down with them. It's a resolvable situation."

Evan Quilter's property in Gunnison. Sanpete County apparently erroneously sold some of Quilter's family property back in 1986.
Evan Quilter's property in Gunnison. Sanpete County apparently erroneously sold some of Quilter's family property back in 1986. (Photo: Tanner Siegworth, KSL-TV)

Sanpete County's land record books apparently have other issues and the current county commissioners are working to fix them, Daniels said.

"These commissioners are really good about trying to bring Sanpete County and land use policy into the current century," he said, citing a similar issue that had been ongoing since 1972 and was recently rectified.

"They've been working hard, which is part of the reason why they're willing to meet with these parties and see if we can figure something out," Daniels said.

One thing that is a bit wonky with Quilter's land: Quilter says his family has continued to pay taxes on the land all these years and so too have the people who bought it. He says the county has collected and kept taxes from both parties.

Daniels declined to comment on that accusation, citing a "potential for litigation."

Litigation may be where this is headed.

With the county taking a passive role in straightening out its 34-year-old-mistake, Quilter fears the only way he may get back what is rightfully his may be to sue, which could end up costing him more than the land is worth.

"I'm disappointed, " Quilter said. "They can just say, 'Well, you just take us to court.' Well, they've got unlimited money. We have none. It's David and Goliath."


Matt Gephardt
Cindy St. Clair


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