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Watchdog Utility Consumers' Action Network says it will initiate a court-supervised dissolution. This announcement followed immediately on the organization's receipt of a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's office, demanding financial records dating back to 2004.

One of the key questions in this investigation will almost certainly be about funds that landed in accounts in which the organization's name was misspelled: Utility Comsumers' Action Network..."m" instead of "n" in the second name.

On June 8 of last year, attorney Paul Dostart filed a report about various questionable activities at UCAN. He mentioned the "Comsumer" accounts, but could only find relatively small sums in them. But attorney Michael Aguirre has come up with a transaction notification indicating that Utility Comsumers' Action Network was transferring the hefty sum of $262,761.24 out of the brokerage house Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

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That's a lot of money for the UCAN organization, that had gross income of around $2 million a year. Aguirre found six accounts under the misspelled name -- with Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs, and with Red Rock Capital, a hedge fund that UCAN was supposed to have lost money investing in, and other financial institutions.

One typo can be forgiven. But six? I could not reach Dostart or Kendall Squires, who heads the UCAN board.

For more blogs and articles on UCAN, click on the links below

July 21, 2011

July 27, 2011

August 13, 2011

August 24, 2011

September 13, 2011

October 12, 2011

December 6, 2011

February 20, 2012

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Comments

realnews Feb. 29, 2012 @ 6:23 p.m.

While admittedly late to the party, why did it take a year before anyone expressed an interest in this uh, oversight?

Are San Diego officials that asleep at the wheel? Oh wait.

Patricia Gregory.
Theresa Erickson.
Kerry Seigerwalt.

Never mind.

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Don Bauder March 1, 2012 @ 7:44 a.m.

My column of July 27, 2011 was the first mention of the gathering storm at UCAN. Back at that time, the subject of the misspelled accounts came up. However, the June 8, 2011 study by attorney Paul Dostart -- working for the UCAN board -- brought up the misspelled accounts, and then dismissed them as small potatoes. Dostart's report indicated there were four such accounts, and the aggregate value was below $42,000. Aguirre has found six of them, and they are in different financial institutions than Dostart mentions, and one of the accounts held more than $262,000. (For example, Dostart did not mention Goldman Sachs. In fact, the accounts found by Aguirre are almost entirely different from the ones supposedly found by Dostart.) You are correct. This must be probed. Obviously, I hope the records have not been destroyed. Best, Don Bauder

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villageram Feb. 29, 2012 @ 6:57 p.m.

And if you click on UCAN.con you will find their official website. What the f**k is wrong withy these greedy people?? I am sure they all make a wage that is over average in San Diego. No still want more. Now the Village Ram is at the door!! HAH HAH!!

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Don Bauder March 1, 2012 @ 7:46 a.m.

Again, my column of July 27, 2011 indicates Shames was making a very nice income, despite his claims that he made a pittance. However, the other employees at UCAN were not, and are not, making good money. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder March 1, 2012 @ 7:48 a.m.

Hmmm, I hadn't thought of that, Burwell. Best, Don Bauder

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JustWondering Feb. 29, 2012 @ 9:52 p.m.

Maybe once, but several accounts? I doubt it.

http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/environment/muck/article_6f9477ec-634c-11e1-8eea-0019bb2963f4.html

But since Don wanted the journalistic completion so there it is from VOSD.

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Don Bauder March 1, 2012 @ 8:26 a.m.

Yes, Voice and the U-T are finally covering this story, after the Reader has been covering it since last July. There are many angles that deserve to be brought up again. I interviewed Shames on July 18, 2011 by email. At first he told me the Dostart study was a hoax; then he said it was preliminary; then he said it had to be "vetted" by UCAN. "Vetted?" One exchange was poignant: I asked him about the fact that he didn't belong to the bar, yet was listed as an attorney in many CPUC filings, used "Esq." after his name, etc. His response: "So where did I practice law?" His argument was that CPUC did not require an intervenor to be a lawyer, and that's true. Later, when I discovered that in 2004 he had filed an amicus brief in the second appellate district, and was not an attorney, I asked him about it. He couldn't remember it, he claimed. Dostart did not cover that amicus brief with the appellate district. Shames should have been in the bar when filing such a brief.

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Don Bauder March 1, 2012 @ 8:28 a.m.

Keep reading. We will have more. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Feb. 29, 2012 @ 10:17 p.m.

http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/environment/muck/article_6f9477ec-634c-11e1-8eea-0019bb2963f4.html

"A copy of an internal report by an attorney UCAN hired says that Shames was paid bonuses of between $87,000 and $101,000 a year between 2008 and 2010, constituting roughly half his salary. The report, a copy of which was obtained by voiceofsandiego.org, said such bonuses were legal but recommended conducting a formal compensation study for Shames"

While not excessive for the top guy, it is certainly not chicken feed either.

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Don Bauder March 1, 2012 @ 8:34 a.m.

Or duck, duck, duck. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder March 1, 2012 @ 8:32 a.m.

Those bonuses were covered in detail in my July 27 column. Dostart had reason to believe the board did not know about them. One person high up in UCAN told me personally that he was not aware of those bonuses. But Shames insisted in my July 18, 2011 exchange with him that the board was fully informed of the bonuses. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell Feb. 29, 2012 @ 10:35 p.m.

But since Don wanted the journalistic completion so there it is from VOSD.

==============

VOSD is a day late and a dollar short.

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Don Bauder March 1, 2012 @ 8:44 a.m.

To my knowledge, Burwell, other media did not pick up on all this until UCAN filed for dissolution this week. So we had the story to ourselves for about half a year. I wrote two columns and several blog items on it. The column of Aug. 24, 2011 was devoted to the China-bashing movie, in which steelmaker Nucor sent $1 million to UCAN, with the idea that it would be passed through to Navarro. That is a big part of this story, and still a mystery, at least to me. Several of the blog items were devoted to Shames's problems with the state bar. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell Feb. 29, 2012 @ 10:37 p.m.

copy of an internal report by an attorney UCAN hired says that Shames was paid bonuses of between $87,000 and $101,000 a year between 2008 and 2010, constituting roughly half his salary.

Don reported on Shames's compensation months ago. This is stale news.

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Don Bauder March 1, 2012 @ 8:47 a.m.

It's worth going back and reading the July 27 and Aug. 24 columns. It's also worth looking at blog items, although, unfortunately, not all of them can be picked up through the Reader search box. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder March 1, 2012 @ 8:46 a.m.

I don't think it is "stale." Yes, it has been reported before in the Reader, but it is just catching on with other media. I welcome that. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh March 1, 2012 @ 7:31 a.m.

The Manchester Mill reports on this dissolution filing today (Thursday, 3/1/12) with a fairly lengthy piece that starts on the front page. (Of course, the BIG news item of the day on the front page was about the births in town on leap day, yesterday.) Where was the Mill for the last year or two? Ans: Out to lunch, or AWOL, take your pick.

It is not as though someone at the U-T was unaware of the turmoil, because it was well documented in the Reader with Don's pieces. Is it that when scooped by the Reader, the Mission Valley folks decide to ignore a story? If that's what happened here, the joke's on them, because now that this filing is public, the story cannot be ignored any longer.

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Don Bauder March 1, 2012 @ 8:50 a.m.

Actually, Visduh, when I filed a blog item on UCAN's intent to dissolve, I thought other media could no longer avoid the story. I was right -- for once. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan March 1, 2012 @ 3:08 p.m.

Aside from the tragedy apparently befalling the UCAN utility monitors that we so desperately need in this town with the near-highest utility rates in the nation, this conversation about who got what scoop first underscores why it is crucial to have independent and unfettered local investigative reporting.

So thank you Jim Holman, publisher of the Reader, who enables the work of excellent Readerwriters like Don Bauder and Matt Potter. After them come the Watchdog folks at U-T San Diego, some of the reporters at on-line voiceofsandiego.org and the two opinionated editors at CityBeat.

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Don Bauder March 2, 2012 @ 3:19 p.m.

Jim Holman certainly gets credit for encouraging Matt Potter and me to dig into the local misbehavior, and then backing us up. Best, Don Bauder

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