Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Shames's Divorce, Computer Seizing Further Roil UCAN
Richard Ravreby, attorney for Katherine Wolf, cannot get financial records from Michael Shames, former head of financially drained watchdog Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN). Wolf was Shames's second wife. The marriage lasted from November 2006 to December 2008. The breakup seemed to be settled until Wolf and Ravreby found that Shames had been taking 10% bonuses from the intervenor fees that he got from his participation in cases before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The bonus money should have been reported as part of the dissolution agreement, says Ravreby, and she is entitled to half of that money. He went to Shames, who said the records are with UCAN. But Kendall Squires, UCAN chairman, said the records were with Shames, according to Ravreby. During a court hearing last month, Shames said he didn't know how much he had earned during the marriage period, and a judge warned him about possible perjury consequences, according to Ravreby and other sources within UCAN. In June, attorney Paul Dostart, who had been hired by the UCAN board, reported that Shames brought in $60,264 from such bonuses in 2008, $101,091 in 2009 and $87,708 in 2010. Ravereby says that if those bonuses relate to work done during the marriage period, Wolf is entitled to her half. I could not reach Shames.
Meanwhile, forensic accountants seized UCAN computers this week. The sleuths were hired by criminal attorney Gene Iredale, who is representing the UCAN board. Reliable sources say Iredale was getting the information to comply with a government request -- almost certainly the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is working on the case for the U.S. Attorney, according to numerous sources. UCAN veteran Charles Langley confirmed that FBI agents were in the UCAN office last week.
Earlier, it was reported that UCAN records are missing. Shames claims some were mysteriously dumped on his doorstep, according to UCAN sources. An important inside source said these doorstep records are not important. An extremely knowledgeable source high up in UCAN told me that the missing records include accounts in which the word "Consumers" was changed to "Comsumers." These accounts were larger than $260,000 at one point. Dostart said in June that he could not locate the accounts on UCAN's books. Later, he claimed that the matter was resolved: the accounts had been tied back to UCAN financial records. Now, it is very reliably reported that they are missing. An important unanswered question is WHEN they were discovered missing.