Who Watches the UCAN Watchdog?

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE --- Due to space limits, I have had to divide my response into two comments..... For all of Don's bluster about whether I was misleading the CPUC by "masquerading" as a licensed attorney (which I wasn't) he hasn't identified who was harmed? Clearly, the CPUC wasn't misled. How about the public? Did he find someone who said "I'd never have given money to UCAN if I knew that Mr. Shames had become an inactive member of the State Bar." And would that same public member have disagreed that when I went inactive it was as a protest against the rampant mismanagement of that very controversial regulatory entity back in the 80s? Not likely. In fact, at the time I did it, I was lauded for "walking the walk" and sending an important message to the State Bar. The reality is that Don wants to try to paint UCAN as a mismanaged, out-of-control non-profit. He alludes to there being only four Board members, yet doesn't mention that there were eight members up until March of this year, when a UCAN employee threatened to personally sue the volunteer UCAN Board members. Four of them chose not to expose themselves to that kind of litigation exposure and I don't blame them. For what Board members get paid (nothing), who needs that aggravation and legal exposure? I'm hugely impressed with the Board members who stayed and chose to fight purely on principle. Nor does Don point out WHO is making these accusations about UCAN and what are their motivations. Would it matter if they were employees who had been terminated from their jobs because of non-performance? He mentions that the Dostart report didn't address a number of other management controversies -- none of which are documented or supported. Nor did he look into the cause of "complete disorganization" to which he alludes in his closing paragraph. For one, it is totally untrue. And second, any internal discord stems from my announcement to staff and others back in 2010 that I was no longer going to serve as Executive Director of UCAN after the end of the 2011 SDG&E General Rate Case. An internal staff battle for control of the organization and its significant assets ensued. Of course, Don didn't bother mentioning any of that. And all because he needed to get his story out under his timeline and his convenience. So welcome, San Diego Reader customers, to convenient journalism where we get whatever facts are conveniently available and that can be made to sound salacious and scandalous, even if no such scandal exists. Apparently, the problem isn't isolated to Rupert Murdoch-owned news outlets. Then again, did his News Corporation buy the San Diego Reader when we weren't looking? Perhaps Don could investigate that as well. Michael Shames
— July 29, 2011 6:30 a.m.

Who Watches the UCAN Watchdog?

Don's "article" is a disturbing demonstration of the decline of investigative journalism. It is riddled with factual inaccuracies and, most importantly, only one side of the story. Here's the inside scoop: I offered to sit down with and spend "as long as he needed" today (Friday) discussing every and all aspects of UCAN with him. "No holds barred", I offered. Don rejected my offer and insisted he needed to meet last week because of his self-imposed deadline to get the story out yesterday. When I explained to him that I was in the midst of week-long hearings in San Francisco, in which I'm trying to get the regulators to deny SDG&E a $39 million increase he seemed to feel that his story was more important than those hearings. If he had sat down with me today, as I had offered, he would have learned a couple of essential facts that never made it into his story. He spends an awful lot of time talking about the Dostart report. Turns out, the version of the Dostart report that he had in his possession was an early draft whose facts had not been verified and, in fact, are wrong. It was wrong about my salary and bonuses. It was wrong in that it left out the fact that ALL the attorneys at UCAN get the same 10% bonus and have been working under that arrangement for over 15 years. And it had been approved by the UCAN Board numerous times. He seized on a year in which I received $202,000 in salary and bonus. That was the year in which I received a 10% bonus on a case that dragged on for three years and in which UCAN received over $1,000,000 in reimbursed costs and fees. In that same case, UCAN was cited by regulators as having presented essential evidence that got the Sunrise Powerlink moved out of Anza-Borrego State Park and in which we were credited for having submitted a redesign of SDG&E's transmission operations that results in 10s of millions of dollars in operational savings. Did Don check to see the compensation for other non-profit attorneys with 25-years experience who also served as the executive directors of those organization? Of course not. There are actually a number of other "facts" in Don's piece which are either wrong or inflated. But had Don really been so interested in getting the facts right, he might have tried to find out why I had chosen to be an inactive member of the Bar. (check out Or what steps I took to make sure that I didn't fall afoul of State Bar rules. For example, did I seek compensation rates at the level that licensed attorneys charge? It is all in public records, but Don didn't bother checking that out. Or, if he did, he declined to mention it in his story. Michael Shames
— July 29, 2011 6:28 a.m.

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