Ian Anderson 2 p.m., March 9
UCAN to Undergo Court-Supervised Reorganization
Beleaguered Utility Consumers' Action Network, the watchdog nonprofit with myriad legal problems, today (Feb. 28) posted on its website an unsigned notice indicating that it "has initiated a Superior Court-supervised reorganization" that might permit the group to address "persistent legal challenges."
As the Reader has been reporting for months, the network's chief executive Michael Shames was receiving California Public Utilities Commission intervenor fees as a lawyer when he was not in the bar; he joined in a non-CPUC legal action although not a lawyer; he resisted but then rejoined the bar; the state bar has been looking into Shames's status; the big steel company Nucor arranged to finance a Peter Navarro China-bashing film by first running the money through Shames' group -- a maneuver that has never been explained.
There have been accounts with unusual spellings such as Utility Comsumers Action Network in which some thought money had been secreted, and, finally, the U.S. Attorney's office has issued a subpoena to the organization, demanding that it turn over numerous financial documents dating back to 2004. The utility network says it will cooperate with the government investigation.
The group's board will be sending a letter to its donors explaining the process. The network stated that among allegations against the organization have been: "embezzlement of UCAN funds, directly or through kickbacks...private bank accounts in which assets were being siphoned, failure to comply with state audit requirements, engaging in unlicensed legal activities and entering into illegal contracts."
The group hired law firms to look into these matters and claims that "no evidence confirming such allegations was provided by those lodging allegations, nor discovered by any of the professionals retained by UCAN's board."
The utility network has a number of whistleblowers making the complaints. They say that the lawyers hired by UCAN covered up the activities, rather than honestly investigated them.