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Ousted Chief of UCAN Asks Board Inquiry

November 02, 1985|BILL RITTER | San Diego County Business Editor

SAN DIEGO — The fired executive director of the Utilities Consumer Action Network has asked state regulators to investigate his charges of conflicts of interest among UCAN board members and to deny the group access to San Diego Gas & Electric's monthly bills pending an outcome of that investigation.

Gary DeLoss, whose September firing capped months of personality clashes between DeLoss and several UCAN directors, mailed his 67-page report to the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Thursday.

In the report, released to the press Friday, DeLoss outlined what he claimed are incidents which "display conflicts of interests by UCAN board members."

Repeating accusations that he made after his firing, DeLoss claimed that several UCAN directors who were active in other community groups--specifically, the Sierra Club and the California Public Interest Research Group--were more loyal to their outside interests than to UCAN.

"His reaction illustrates the problem the board had with him--a failure to confine his pugnaciousness to SDG&E," UCAN director Robert Fellmeth said. "This is sour grapes. There is hardly a vote by that board on anything that wasn't unanimous."

DeLoss' firing was one of the exceptions, as the board divided 5 to 4 in favor of dismissing the executive director after he refused to resign and accept a letter of recommendation and severance pay. Soon after the vote, three UCAN directors resigned to protest DeLoss' firing.

Robert Feraru, the PUC's public adviser in San Francisco, said he hadn't yet seen DeLoss' request but that he has kept abreast of the situation. "We've very interested (and want) to make sure San Diego has an effective consumer group to represent" utility ratepayers.

UCAN, with about 50,000 members, has been sharing SDG&E's billing envelopes on a quarterly basis since April, 1983.

The group enclosed its literature, which criticized the utility's high rates, and took a public interest position both on SDG&E's rate requests before the PUC and also on the utility's proposal to convert to a holding company. (The holding-company concept, approved overwhelmingly by SDG&E shareholders Friday, will allow the utility to operate non-utility ventures without regulation by the state.)

In July, the PUC approved UCAN's continued use of the envelopes, but stayed the decision pending the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court decision of a similar case involving another consumer-watchdog organization.

Fellmeth said that "if DeLoss has a problem" with UCAN, then "the remedy is the electoral process," and he should become active when the group holds an election for a director seat in about three months.

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