Michael Shames, cofounder and former head of watchdog Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN), today (June 26) made a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) claiming that he is taking over UCAN's role in San Diego Gas & Electric's (SDGE) filing for a fat general rate increase. Shames has formed a new organization, San Diego Consumers' Action Network (SDCAN). In the filing, Shames states, "SDCAN seeks to act as the successor to UCAN," and "this request is made following an agreement between SDCAN and UCAN."
But, says Kim Malcolm, who has replaced Shames as head of UCAN, "These are Michael's words and not mine." There is no written agreement and no contract, she stresses. "His agency is not the successor to UCAN in the case." She told Shames that "he can use testimony UCAN originally submitted. That would be good for San Diego." However, UCAN will continue to work on the case on its own. Shames may proceed with his purported new group, obviously.
An all-important matter is intervenor fees, which the CPUC pays to those who contribute substantially to a rate case. Shames may collect such fees for work that he does on his own, "but he doesn't get for himself what he did for UCAN," says Malcolm. "That's UCAN property. And he knows that."
Today, the UCAN whistleblowers who filed suit against the group, and earlier complained of financial irregularities that Shames allegedly committed, dropped their suit as their case was settled privately, according to Malcolm. Those employees are Charles Langley and David Peffer. Langley would not comment on any matter. However, there has been no settlement with Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, which wants to form its own organization and feels it is entitled to funds, and Peter Navarro, who made a movie about China's trade abuses. A mysterious deal was set up whereby steelmaker Nucor would give UCAN $1 million, and UCAN would pass that sum to Navarro. But at the time of the aborted settlement, $400,000 had not been passed to Navarro, who tried unsuccessfully many times for political office in San Diego and is now a professor at the University of California Irvine.
After Malcolm took over, she pulled UCAN out of a broad settlement that had been drawn up by the parties. She wants an audit of unrestricted funds. UCAN remains out of that settlement, now in limbo.