Barbara Zaragoza 8:04 p.m., Dec. 19
How Shames Threatened UCAN Staff with Mass Firings
One of the whistleblowers inside Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN) is attorney David Peffer. Despite his complaints about UCAN wrongdoing, he is (as of now) the lawyer handling the organization's battle against San Diego Gas & Electric's attempt to pass uninsured 2007 and future wildfire costs to customers instead of shareholders.
On March 24 of last year, Peffer wrote a letter to the UCAN board. Peffer described a staff meeting that had occurred a week earlier. Peffer had been excluded but learned of what happened from those who attended. Here's what Peffer told the board about the meeting:
"Shames stated that unless the staff can assuage his concerns regarding the staff's contentiousness and whistleblowing, he intends to dissolve UCAN," Peffer reported. When pressed, Shames said he would maintain UCAN as a shell organization "but eliminate most or all of UCAN's staff."
Shames would stay on at least through the conclusion of the current rate case. "When asked, Shames stated that he was certain that the board would enact any recommendation he made."
Peffer told the board, "I believe that Michael is serious about his threats to dissolve UCAN. I believe at some point Michael will approach the board with a proposal to do so...I strongly suggest that the board consult with counsel regarding the legal and ethical implications of allowing Mr. Shames to engage in collective punishment, terminating UCAN's staff in retaliation for my whistleblower complaint."
As it turned out, the board announced its intention to file for dissolution shortly after receiving a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's office demanding delivery of numerous financial documents dating back to 2004. Peffer's letter of March 24, 2011 appears prescient, indeed.
Pictured: David Peffer from UCAN website