Don Bauder 3:30 p.m., Jan. 21
UCAN wants Shames's suit thrown out, amplifies answers
Watchdog also slices pay of remaining workers in bid to keep going
Troubled watchdog Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN) yesterday (May 6) filed a suit asking that the lawsuit earlier filed by its former executive director, Michael Shames, be thrown out on the ground that it is a "strategic lawsuit against public participation" (SLAPP) interfering with UCAN's right to make constitutionally protected statements. The suit attempts to refute Shames's charges of libel, libel per se, blacklisting, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, and the like. UCAN's suit sheds light on many matters, including whether Shames farmed out lawsuits to lawyers who personally profited using work product produced by UCAN's staff. Kim Malcolm, who replaced Shames as executive director but lasted only from May through July of last year, said under oath that it is her understanding that a charitable organization "cannot give away assets for the enrichment of others. I am not aware that UCAN's board of directors investigated the allegations that Mr. Shames had improperly provided UCAN work product at no charge to private attorneys, some of whom, according to court records, made millions of dollars in attorney fees."
Malcolm stated that official files were missing from the office when she arrived. Shames confirmed that files were at his home, "and stated in writing that he would not return them until I agreed to pay him bonuses that had not been authorized by the UCAN board of directors," she stated. But records remained missing, and she needed them "to correct misstatements in at least five years of UCAN's 990 forms, which were filed with the Internal Revenue Service. I also needed agency financial records in order to reconcile the disposition of at least $1 million in funds deposited into five misnamed accounts."
I was not able to reach Shames for his comments, but will pass them on if he gets back to me.
At its board meeting today, UCAN directors considered a new budget that would sharply cut pay and hours of staffers. For example, Charles Langley, fundraiser and media liaison who has worked 16 years for UCAN, would suffer a 50% pay cut if the budget is finally approved. In a discussion of further fundraising, Langley told the board that in some earlier years, there had been no or little fundraising so that annual revenue would not rise above $2 million, triggering a state-mandated independent audit.
More like this:
- Charles Langley resigns from UCAN — June 3, 2013
- UCAN files cross-complaint against Shames — May 2, 2013
- UCAN head quits after 10 days; Langley out, too — Oct. 18, 2012
- Financially Ailing UCAN to Hire Auditor — July 30, 2012
- Shames Forms Own Group; Malcolm of UCAN Questions His Statements — June 26, 2012