Vincent Farnsworth 6:31 p.m., Dec. 4
State auditor says CPUC's intervenor compensation system OK
Says Shames, formerly of UCAN, might have been overcompensated
The California State Auditor came out with a report today (July 23) stating that despite administrative weaknesses, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has generally awarded compensation to intervenors -- individuals and groups representing ratepayer interests -- in accordance with state law. Among other things, the auditor lacks formal procedures to verify the qualifications of intervenors appearing in procedures.
"We encountered one instance in which an intervenor actually did not have qualifications that [CPUC] indicate[s] they now verify for attorneys," says the report. It explains that in 2011, the CPUC discovered that Michael Shames, then executive director of San Diego's Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN), was not an active member of the State Bar. Actually, as the Reader revealed during the period, Shames had not been a member of the bar since 1988, although he would list himself on intervenor fee requests as an attorney and use Esq. after his name. In 2011, a CPUC administrative law judge said that bar and non-bar members could appear in proceedings. However, the level of intervenor pay depends on whether one is an attorney. "The commission could have overcompensated him," says the auditor.
The auditor who handled the study has not yet returned my call.