4 p.m., Dec. 5
Suit Against UCAN Charges Document Destruction
The suit that whistleblowers within Utility Consumers' Action Network are filing this afternoon (March 9) charges that Robert Ames, chief operating officer, hired a professional document shredding company to destroy UCAN documents, supposedly in relation to the organization's move to a new building. "Ames filled several large, yard-waste size containers with documents, which were removed for destruction," says the suit. Also, Michael Shames, chief executive officer, took boxes of documents from the office and loaded them into his car. Ames claimed that he was disposing of "excess documents," but whistleblowers David Peffer and Charles Langley objected to the destruction of potential evidence, according to the suit. The suit is filed against the UCAN board, Shames and Ames.
The suit notes that in fiscal years 2006 and 2010, UCAN's gross revenue exceeded $2 million; according to state law, when revenues reach this threshold, there must be an independent audit, and there was none. Further, UCAN bylaws require an audit each year, notes the suit.
The suit points out that Shames told the board he would spend $500,000 to $700,000 on consultants last year; he spent $230,000 more than that, "driving UCAN to the point of near-insolvency," according to the suit.
The whistleblower suit stresses questionable UCAN activities reported regularly by the Reader since July of 2011 and picked up by other media beginning February 28 of this year, when UCAN said it would file for dissolution and would cooperate with a U.S. Attorney probe of its finances. In addition to those charges above, these include the bonus payments that Shames skimmed off intervenor fees awarded by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), but were not known by board members; the money placed in misspelled accounts (Utility CoMsumers' Action Network) that did not show up on the UCAN books; Shames practicing law, and getting attorney fees from the CPUC, although he was an inactive member of the State Bar; the $1 million of steel company money that was intended to be moved through UCAN's account to Peter Navarro, who was making a movie about China's economic abuses, and $1 million plunked into a hedge fund that was connected to Navarro. UCAN is said to have lost $100,000 on this speculative investment.