Consumer Advocate Group UCAN Dissolving

Group says it will take a year off to deal with internal issues and pending lawsuits

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    UCAN is in the crossroads of its survival with internal squabbling and threats that could lead to the closing of the popular consumer advocacy group.

    The Utility Consumers’ Action Network was founded by Michael Shames more than 20 years ago and has led fights against utility, phone and cable companies over the years.

    However the UCAN organization has been rocked by recent allegations of fraud and power struggles within the organization.

    Questions surrounding a federal court subpoena also plague the non-profit consumer group. Some have said UCAN’s board members are in a “civil war” over the future of the organization.

    In a press release sent out Tuesday night, the group said it will dissolve voluntarily while it regroups during its legal challenges.

    "It's ugly, but it's something we had to do," said the group's controversial executive director Michael Shames.

    The petition to dissolve with the Superior Court will allow them to preserve their assets while fighting lawsuits pending against the group.

    In particular, the group faces a few internal struggles with staff members who filed “critical lawsuits” of UCAN senior managers. The press release lists about five complaints lodged against them by the employees, including embezzlement of UCAN funds and engaging in unlicensed legal activities.

    In addition to the internal strife, the group also received a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury.

    UCAN expects to be able to carry on with some ratepayer advocacy while they fight their legal battles, the press release stated.

    Former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre says he has been trying since last summer to get UCAN to respond to allegations of financial mishandling.

    He says those issues were brought to his attention by two UCAN employees who tried to get UCAN's board to address their concerns.

    Aguirre added that if UCAN would come clean, they wouldn't have to disband.