OGDEN -- Alex Hurtado would be chagrined at what has become of his legacy as family members wrestle over the trust fund he left behind.
A 2nd District Court jury in Ogden recently found his wife and daughter guilty of mishandling the trust fund, delivering a $341,770 judgement against them. The suit was brought by Hurtado's brothers and sisters and other relatives in 2007.
Hurtado died of a heart attack in 2004 at age 70 after a distinguished civic and political career that included serving in the Reagan White House, eventually as the national director of Hispanic affairs in the Reagan presidency.
Hurtado served three terms on the Ogden City Council, from 1971-81, and was appointed the director of political affairs for the Republican National Committee in 1981. He was instrumental in Reagan's visit to Weber County in 1982, highlighted by a picnic in Hooper.
Hurtado served on many government boards, including the State Board of Regents, and was widely considered instrumental in the establishment of the applied technology schools in Weber and Davis counties.
After a two-week trial before Judge Noel Hyde, a jury on Jan. 18 found Lisa Hurtado McDonnell, the daughter, "in breach of her fiduciary duty" as administrator of the trust fund and found that she and her mother Ramona Hurtado "conspired to injure" the trust Alex Hurtado set up in the name of his mother, Elisa.
The jury found the damages totaling $341,770 in depleting the trust McDonnell took over in 2004 after her father's death.
"The trust is essentially gone," said Matt Grimer, the attorney who brought the suit against the Hurtado women.
Alex Hurtado had built up the trust account with the purchase of about 40 rental properties in Weber County beginning in the early 1990s after he largely retired from politics, Grimer said.
But the family feud appears far from over.
"You better believe we're going to appeal it," said Randy Ludlow, attorney for Ramona Hurtado, Alex's widow. "We're very disappointed with what we saw as a runaway jury. They ignored a lot of the facts."
Lisa McDonnell is a lawyer practicing in Ogden, as is her younger sister Monette, who is a Deputy Weber County Attorney in the civil division of the office. She was not a defendant in the suit and testified briefly on her mother and sister's behalf.
While finding McDonnell and her mother guilty, the jury awarded only $1 in punitive damages against McDonnell on the breach of fiduciary duty verdict, court records show, and $4,000 in punitive damages each for McDonnell and her mother on the conspiracy verdicts.
Ludlow said the appeal track will begin with motions asking Hyde to lower the judgement amount and requesting a new trial. If necessary, the appeal would subsequently go to the Utah Supreme Court, he said.
The jury rejected his argument that the trust was running a deficit before Lisa McDonnell and her mother took over its management, Ludlow said.
"Alex had tried to help his family," he said, with disbursements from the trust to his relatives over the years.