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UCAN head quits after 10 days; Langley out, too

Pat Zaharopoulos, who became temporary executive director of watchdog Utility Consumers' Action Network on Oct. 8, resigned today (Oct. 18), explaining that her knowledge of non-profits was too limited. She succeeded Kim Malcolm, who lasted only a few months, and left with a bad taste in her mouth recently. In her note to the board, Zaharapoulos stated that as of January 1, UCAN will likely employ only two people: a consumer advocate and "girl Friday" (her words), Patricia Anderson, who will run the office and keep the books. The financially drained UCAN will "most likely" have only one function, advocacy before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), she said. That will mean that Charles Langley, who ran the gas price program, public relations, and fundraising, among other things, will be out, Langley confirmed. He said that the job of fundraising has been eliminated, and hence his job has been axed.

One would think that a non-profit almost devoid of funds would NOT stop fundraising. However, there is a widespread feeling among followers of the UCAN tragedy that driving the treasury down to zero is exactly what certain members of this board had in mind. UCAN has needlessly spent $800,000 on lawyers and accountants since whistleblowers pointed out mysterious financial transactions last year. In March of last year, Michael Shames, co-founder, had warned the staff that he would shut down UCAN with board concurrence unless the complaints stopped. He has perhaps succeeded, although the United States attorney's investigation of the financial anomalies continues.

Possibly the only way to save UCAN is for somebody to force the board to sue the attorneys, or replace that board with conscientious people who will file malfeasance suits against the hired attorneys to retrieve the funds. In several cases, it is clear now that those attorneys who charged such high rates were working to vindicate Shames and perhaps some other board members; they were NOT working for UCAN, as they were hired to do.

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Pat Zaharopoulos, who became temporary executive director of watchdog Utility Consumers' Action Network on Oct. 8, resigned today (Oct. 18), explaining that her knowledge of non-profits was too limited. She succeeded Kim Malcolm, who lasted only a few months, and left with a bad taste in her mouth recently. In her note to the board, Zaharapoulos stated that as of January 1, UCAN will likely employ only two people: a consumer advocate and "girl Friday" (her words), Patricia Anderson, who will run the office and keep the books. The financially drained UCAN will "most likely" have only one function, advocacy before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), she said. That will mean that Charles Langley, who ran the gas price program, public relations, and fundraising, among other things, will be out, Langley confirmed. He said that the job of fundraising has been eliminated, and hence his job has been axed.

One would think that a non-profit almost devoid of funds would NOT stop fundraising. However, there is a widespread feeling among followers of the UCAN tragedy that driving the treasury down to zero is exactly what certain members of this board had in mind. UCAN has needlessly spent $800,000 on lawyers and accountants since whistleblowers pointed out mysterious financial transactions last year. In March of last year, Michael Shames, co-founder, had warned the staff that he would shut down UCAN with board concurrence unless the complaints stopped. He has perhaps succeeded, although the United States attorney's investigation of the financial anomalies continues.

Possibly the only way to save UCAN is for somebody to force the board to sue the attorneys, or replace that board with conscientious people who will file malfeasance suits against the hired attorneys to retrieve the funds. In several cases, it is clear now that those attorneys who charged such high rates were working to vindicate Shames and perhaps some other board members; they were NOT working for UCAN, as they were hired to do.

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Comments
15

ANOTHER BOARD MEMBER OUT, TOO. An excellent source high up within UCAN tells me that Jack Minan, a law professor at the University of San Diego, has already left the board after probably less than two months. I have not confirmed that with him, but the source is extremely knowledgeable. Another indication: the note that Zaharopoulos sent to board members was not sent to Minan. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 18, 2012

If Shames drained te $800K to screw the firm up he should be aSHAMED of himself, and go to prison.

Oct. 18, 2012

Shames does not get the blame for much of the $800,000 drained from UCAN on lawyer and accountant fees. Many of these deals were lined up after Robert Ames became chief operating officer. It is critical to examine the personal relationships of the UCAN bosses at the time and the lawyers they hired. Remember, in September of last year, Dostart informed a friend at the AG's office that the board had already decided to dissolve. Much of that $800,000 was spent AFTER that decision had been made. This was extremely high-priced ass-covering that drained UCAN, and it appears to have been part of a deliberate strategy. Now, that strategy had been spelled out by Shames at an employee meeting in March of last year. It is critical that the U.S. Attorney get to the bottom of this, because a lot of money in San Diego is stolen by so-called non-profits. A lot of people suspect that the U.S. Attorney is under pressure to drop the investigation. The FBI has critical information. This CANNOT become another Moores/Stallings whitewash with sealing of the evidence. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 19, 2012

Time for what is left of UCAN to hand the "keys" over to a new group that will respect the Brown Act and start promoting for rate payers instead of themselves...

Perhaps Don Bauder will post the contact info about who to talk to and lets get UCAN working again for SD's rate Payers ASAP, we cannot afford to allow SDG&E or SCE get away with a 1.2 Billion Dollar Debacle while the OLD UCAN Board gets investigated!

Now is the perfect time for a few of US to stand up for energy equality!

Oct. 19, 2012

Agreed: all the cobwebs must be swept out of UCAN. The best solution would be that UCAN would be saved, but the the house cleaned and new management and board brought in. Actually, if UCAN board members lose their directors insurance, as seems likely, the board would be dispatched quickly. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 19, 2012

Founder- you should be running UCAN, great point, NEW BLOOD is needed, honest blood!

Oct. 20, 2012

SP: Founder may have other fish to fry. How about you, SurfPup? Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 20, 2012

I'll do it if you help me...

Oct. 22, 2012

Actually I would help you. Don, what is UCAN doing to try to stay afloat???? Do they have ANY income?? Could they continue with a skeleton crew of 4-5 at modest wages?? And when I say modest, like $25K per year?? Founder can be CEO, I will be COO, and Don can be Chairman of the Board from CO.

BTW a CO appeals court just blocked that state from rolling back COLA's for retirees. A Stockton and Vallejo BK judge BOTH said that is OK in BK.

Oct. 22, 2012

UCAN will have two employees as of the first of the year. It's not clear if it will also have an executive director, which would make three. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 22, 2012

These Boards need real people on them that promote for the ratepayers instead of themselves... With the Media in SD being dumbed down thanks to Baron Manchester, SD ratepayers need all the honest help they can get!

The ideal way to pay Board Members is by a small set amount, say $500 per week and then give them a tiny percentage of what they save rate payers as a performance bonus...

Oct. 22, 2012

These Boards need real people on them that promote for the ratepayers instead of themselves...

I agree 100%, and to insure that the compensation would have to be MINIMAL or even Pro Bono. That is the only way to stop the greed at UCAN.

Oct. 22, 2012

On the other hand, SurfPup, Shames was always saying he only made $70,000 a year. People thought he was almost working pro bono. But it turned out he was bringing in more than $200,000 a year because of the bonuses on intervenor fees he was handling himself. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 22, 2012

Good point, Founder. Manchester says he will stick up for San Diego businesses and the military. That would seem to mean that SDGE has a free pass. Does Manchester give a hoot about utility ratepayers? I haven't seen indication of that. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 22, 2012

SurfPuppy619 Check your mail, we can do this and get the ratepayers to LOVE US at the same time...

Oct. 24, 2012

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