Friday, May 25, 2012
The consumer advocacy group UCAN announced this week it will have a new executive director: Kim Malcolm, a former chief of staff and administrative law judge at the California Public Utilities Commission.
The old director, Michael Shames, was embroiled in controversy in March after UCAN said it was dissolving because of investigations. Two employees had filed legal complaints alleging embezzlement and misuse of funds.
But Malcolm told KPBS the group is alive and well.
"As you know, UCAN has a wonderful reputation with state regulators and with the San Diego community, we want to build on UCAN's good reputation, its litigation skills, the work it's done for the last 30 years in the community, helping clients and customers with their bills and their services," she said. "So that's my job right now, is to build on that and get by the lawsuits and allegations."
Malcolm said Shames will continue to work with UCAN.
"He's still employed by UCAN as an attorney, and will continue to work on the Public Utilities Commission cases with San Diego Gas & Electric," she said. "And we're working out a future working relationship with Michael, whose been such an asset to UCAN for so many years."
Shames posted on his Facebook page on Thursday: "Today I get my long-delayed freedom from the UCAN ED position and we've got a top-notch person to take my place. Kim Malcolm was my first (and, frankly only) choice to take over the reins of UCAN."
Malcolm said UCAN will continue to fight against SDG&E's proposed rate increase to cover the cost of the 2007 wildfires. Her previous experience at the California Public Utilities Commission, the regulatory agency that oversees public utilities like SDG&E, will come into play.
"In my experience at the PUC, it would be unprecedented for the commission to allow a utility to recover costs retroactively for damages related to an event for which it had liability," she said. "It would be very unusual."
Although some argue the CPUC is serving the interests of utilities instead of customers, Malcolm said the commission is "well-meaning."
"I think it's up to the organizations like UCAN to present the facts and the analysis and advocate on behalf of consumers and the environment," she said.