Susan Luzzaro 9 p.m., Aug. 20
UCAN: supposedly, revenue should have gone into different year
Draft of new IRS filing raises questions of accounting under new management
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.
More like this:
- UCAN wants Shames's suit thrown out, amplifies answers — May 7, 2013
- UCAN Looking for New Executive Director — Sept. 14, 2012
- UCAN Backs Out of Settlement OK — June 18, 2012
- Suit Against UCAN Charges Document Destruction — March 9, 2012
- Were UCAN Books Audited? Cooked? — March 3, 2012