Lucy D. Barker 6:13 p.m., May 23
UCAN head quits after 10 days; Langley out, too
Pat Zaharopoulos, who became temporary executive director of watchdog Utility Consumers' Action Network on Oct. 8, resigned today (Oct. 18), explaining that her knowledge of non-profits was too limited. She succeeded Kim Malcolm, who lasted only a few months, and left with a bad taste in her mouth recently. In her note to the board, Zaharapoulos stated that as of January 1, UCAN will likely employ only two people: a consumer advocate and "girl Friday" (her words), Patricia Anderson, who will run the office and keep the books. The financially drained UCAN will "most likely" have only one function, advocacy before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), she said. That will mean that Charles Langley, who ran the gas price program, public relations, and fundraising, among other things, will be out, Langley confirmed. He said that the job of fundraising has been eliminated, and hence his job has been axed.
One would think that a non-profit almost devoid of funds would NOT stop fundraising. However, there is a widespread feeling among followers of the UCAN tragedy that driving the treasury down to zero is exactly what certain members of this board had in mind. UCAN has needlessly spent $800,000 on lawyers and accountants since whistleblowers pointed out mysterious financial transactions last year. In March of last year, Michael Shames, co-founder, had warned the staff that he would shut down UCAN with board concurrence unless the complaints stopped. He has perhaps succeeded, although the United States attorney's investigation of the financial anomalies continues.
Possibly the only way to save UCAN is for somebody to force the board to sue the attorneys, or replace that board with conscientious people who will file malfeasance suits against the hired attorneys to retrieve the funds. In several cases, it is clear now that those attorneys who charged such high rates were working to vindicate Shames and perhaps some other board members; they were NOT working for UCAN, as they were hired to do.