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According to a March 30 article in the Union-Tribune, the new management of deeply troubled watchdog Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN) has prepared a draft of its 990 report for the year 2009 to replace the one filed earlier by Michael Shames, who left the organization under duress as a result of a U.S. Attorney investigation into possible financial irregularities. Within the organization, some board members and employees, including two whistleblowers, complained that UCAN's 990 reports to the Internal Revenue Service (which nonprofits must file each year), were inaccurate. Hence, there is a draft of a new report for 2009. But among many questions, one stands out: in the original filing, revenue from an allied organization, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), was listed as $1.44 million. But in the new draft, that revenue is listed as $91,080 -- an extremely low number that is hardly consistent with the original filing. Don Kelly, current executive director of UCAN, says the larger figure should have been listed in a later year.

Earlier, when a purported "independent" investigator was allegedly looking into UCAN's books, and why they had not been audited by an objective third party, the shifting of numbers from one year to another happened several times. Critics said UCAN was trying to keep annual gross revenue below $2 million -- a threshold that by law should trigger an independent audit. Mike Aguirre, lawyer for the whistleblowers, suspects that "creative accounting" is being used once again. "Getting an accounting firm to juggle the books" was the modus operandi of the prior management, and he wonders if that's the case again. He thinks that the draft of a new 990 may be more of a trial balloon.

"I haven't seen the numbers, but it does seem like a big adjustment," says former board member Niel Lynch. Beth Givens, head of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, did not return a call.

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Comments

Don Bauder April 2, 2013 @ 1:58 p.m.

FELLMETH RESIGNS AS VOTING MEMBER FROM UCAN BOARD. At a meeting this afternoon (April 2), University of San Diego Law Professor Robert Fellmeth resigned from the board as a voting member. Fellmeth founded the troubled watchdog group in 1983 and shortly put the now-departed Michael Shames in as executive director. Shames, who left during the FBI investigation last year, was one of Fellmeth's public interest law students. Fellmeth has been on the current UCAN board for less than a year; during that time, two of his former students, including the new executive director Don Kelly and board member Christine Mailloux, joined the organization. Shames has sued UCAN, whistleblower David Peffer and whistleblower attorney Mike Aguirre. Shames's lawyer is Hal Rosner, another former Fellmeth student, who went into business with Fellmeth after he finished law school. Rosner had gotten some of his leads for lawsuits from UCAN. Longtime San Diegan Jess Haro joined the board today, but the board agrees it needs more members. Fellmeth says he will stay active with UCAN -- for example, helping to recruit new board members, doing legal work and the like. After midsummer he is "open to whatever role you want to give me," he told the board. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 2, 2013 @ 2:19 p.m.

FORMER CHAIRMAN SAYS HE TOLD SHAMES NOT TO TAKE BONUS -- BUT SHAMES DID. Perhaps the most interesting revelation in today's UCAN board member is that Kendall Squires, former chairman who now has emeritus status at UCAN, stated that he ordered Shames not to take a bonus, but he took it anyway. One of the charges against Shames is that he took unauthorized bonuses -- 10% of intervenor compensation fees -- that he was not entitled to take. UCAN has ordered him to give those bonuses back. One of the other matters regarding Shames is that he was taking the intervenor fees from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), listing himself as an attorney, but had not been in the bar. Squires told me earlier that he had ordered Shames to rejoin the bar, which he did. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh April 3, 2013 @ 8:34 a.m.

Anybody want to start a pool with a prediction of when Shames (Shameless) is arrested? It could keep things interesting.

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Don Bauder April 3, 2013 @ 11:37 a.m.

Visduh: The FBI investigation may be intensifying, I have learned from reliable sources. I don't know whether there is blockage in the US Attorney's office. I have good reason to believe there is political pressure being placed on that office to drop the matter. Best, Don Bauder

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Founder April 3, 2013 @ 1:40 p.m.

I would not be a bit surprised if BOTH SDG&E and Edison are using their FULL political influence in this, in order to keep UCAN as dysfunctional as possible, since that would save them huge amounts of money, especially now that San Onofre's potential rebates are well over a Billion Dollars!

Both of them are laughing all the way to the Bank, since ratepayers are now paying about 60 million dollars a month (on top of the one Billion they have already paid for SCE's poorly designed defective steam generators) and getting nothing for it but smiles from these Utilities shareholders.

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Don Bauder April 3, 2013 @ 4:20 p.m.

Founder: I broke the UCAN scandal story back in mid-2011 and I can assure you that I have received no help or encouragement from SDGE or Edison. SDGE will not speak to me. I battled furiously with Edison two decades ago. You are correct that the utilities are charging ratepayers for San Onofre even though it is not functioning. You may have read it here. I am not sure SDGE is giggling over the problems of UCAN. Best, Don Bauder

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Founder April 5, 2013 @ 7:43 a.m.

Don I Agree, you are THE man!

As long as SCE can keep SanO in the rate base they are still getting about 68 million dollars a month from ratepayers (on top of the Billion Dollars + they have already taken from us for these defectively designed replacement steam generators, even though they are not generating anything except profits for their shareholders, that is why they are doing whatever they can to make sure that SanO does not get closed down!

More on why they are UNSAFE here:

NRC: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly ... and why it is unsafe To restart San Onofre

http://decommission.sanonofre.com/2013/04/nrc-good-bad-and-ugly.html

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Don Bauder April 9, 2013 @ 7:24 a.m.

Founder: It is a scam for Edison and SDGE to keep charging ratepayers for San Onofre while it is shut down. You are correct: restarting San Onofre would be unsafe, and an outrage. But remember, the CPUC's major mission is to jack up utility profits, not to worry about ratepayer fairness or citizen safety. Best, Don Bauder

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