Agreement Shows Regulator Paid By Ohio Utility For Future Aid

Agreement Shows Regulator Paid By Ohio Utility For Future Aid

Randazzo “would perform official action in his capacity” as chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to include passage of a nuclear bailout bill known as House Bill 6 and other FirstEnergy “legislative and regulatory priorities, as requested and as opportunities arose,” according to the statement of facts signed by current CEO and President Steven Strah. The statement said FirstEnergy “had no legal obligation to make the payment.”

The office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel released consulting contracts between FirstEnergy Corp. and the future chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Sam Randazzo, listing around $11 million in payments made to his company between 2013 and 2019. As part of a deferred prosecution agreement made public a week ago, FirstEnergy said it paid Randazzo $22 million over the years, including the $4.3 million for his future work on FirstEnergy’s behalf. To avoid criminal prosecution on a federal conspiracy charge, FirstEnergy has agreed to pay $230 million in penalties and abide by a lengthy list of provisions for the next three years.

The office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel sought copies of the consulting contracts as part of information requests and subpoenas submitted to FirstEnergy after then-U.S. Attorney David DeVillers announced the company had secretly funded a $60 million bribery scheme to get the tainted energy bill approved. “Our consumer protection investigation continues into any harms electric consumers suffered from the House Bill 6 scandal involving FirstEnergy,” J.P. Blackwood, a spokesperson for Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston said. “Unfortunately, progress has been slow.”

FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Young on Monday said: “While we’re unable to comment on the contract in light of pending proceedings, we are carefully reviewing and revising our political activity and lobbying/consulting practices, including requiring robust disclosures about lobbying activities.” Randazzo denied wrongdoing in a statement released by his attorney last week. He has not been criminally charged. “I executed my duties as PUCO chair conscientiously, lawfully, and mindful of striking the right balance between competing interests,” Randazzo said. “At no time prior to or after my appointment to the PUCO was I asked or did I agree to exercise authority as a public official or perform any official action in my capacity as chair to further FirstEnergy’s legislative, regulatory or other interests.”

FirstEnergy made the payments to Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio Inc., of which Randazzo was the owner and sole employee. The $4.3 million payment paid in January 2019 was for years 2019 through 2024 listed in the consulting contract. The consulting contract showed Randazzo was to be paid nearly $7 million from 2013 through 2018. It’s unclear when and why the remaining $11 million was paid. Randazzo resigned as utilities commission chair in November after FBI agents searched his Columbus townhome and FirstEnergy made public the $4.3 million payment in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

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