UCAN wants Shames's suit thrown out, amplifies answers

Watchdog also slices pay of remaining workers in bid to keep going

Troubled watchdog Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN) yesterday (May 6) filed a suit asking that the lawsuit earlier filed by its former executive director, Michael Shames, be thrown out on the ground that it is a "strategic lawsuit against public participation" (SLAPP) interfering with UCAN's right to make constitutionally protected statements. The suit attempts to refute Shames's charges of libel, libel per se, blacklisting, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, and the like. UCAN's suit sheds light on many matters, including whether Shames farmed out lawsuits to lawyers who personally profited using work product produced by UCAN's staff. Kim Malcolm, who replaced Shames as executive director but lasted only from May through July of last year, said under oath that it is her understanding that a charitable organization "cannot give away assets for the enrichment of others. I am not aware that UCAN's board of directors investigated the allegations that Mr. Shames had improperly provided UCAN work product at no charge to private attorneys, some of whom, according to court records, made millions of dollars in attorney fees."

Malcolm stated that official files were missing from the office when she arrived. Shames confirmed that files were at his home, "and stated in writing that he would not return them until I agreed to pay him bonuses that had not been authorized by the UCAN board of directors," she stated. But records remained missing, and she needed them "to correct misstatements in at least five years of UCAN's 990 forms, which were filed with the Internal Revenue Service. I also needed agency financial records in order to reconcile the disposition of at least $1 million in funds deposited into five misnamed accounts."

I was not able to reach Shames for his comments, but will pass them on if he gets back to me.

At its board meeting today, UCAN directors considered a new budget that would sharply cut pay and hours of staffers. For example, Charles Langley, fundraiser and media liaison who has worked 16 years for UCAN, would suffer a 50% pay cut if the budget is finally approved. In a discussion of further fundraising, Langley told the board that in some earlier years, there had been no or little fundraising so that annual revenue would not rise above $2 million, triggering a state-mandated independent audit.

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SHAMES CAN'T COMMENT: Michael Shames says he has not seen the complaint and cannot respond. Best, Don Bauder

Did you expect any sort of response from Shameless?

Visduh: He has responded to some of my columns and posts in the past. He has to be given a chance to respond. Best, Don Bauder

SDG&E and Edison are laughing themselves silly, as San Diego's "watchdog" group continues to fail the public it represents!

My solution is for the entire UCAN Board to resign and allow a new Board, chosen from public applicants to KICKSTART a new organization UUCAN, United Utility Action Network.

Be Advised ==> While the current UCAN folks are bickering among themselves Edison and SDG&E are hard at work trying to get away with ripping off ratepayers for 1.5 BILLION DOLLARS, which makes no sense at all!

Founder: I agree that SDG&E and Edison are scheming to rip off ratepayers. After all, SDG&E has consistently had the highest rates in the nation for more than a dozen years, and San Onofre, owned jointly by the two, but mainly by Edison, is a mess. However, I don't think those utilities are laughing themselves silly over the internal UCAN fracas. UCAN has not been sufficiently successful opposing SDG&E's fat rate hikes, as the utility's high rates show. Best, Don Bauder

By laughing, I mean that just when UCAN could possible really "hurt" the Utilities bottom line in a big way, UCAN's Board is too busy fighting among themselves to focus on doing anything about how ratepayers being ripped off.

Founder: Another factor to buttress your point is that David Peffer, the whistleblower who was also a good prober into utility ripoffs, has left UCAN. In any case, UCAN's board would not be doing the fighting against the utilities. It would be staff. And that's down to a handful whose pay just got slashed. Best, Don Bauder

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