November 24, 2020
Columbus, OH – Today, the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) filed a motion with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to vacate orders by the commission during Sam Randazzo’s tenure as chairman involving FirstEnergy Corp. where ELPC was a party, and conduct new proceedings.
Recent revelations regarding the relationship between former Chairman Sam Randazzo and Akron, Ohio-based utility FirstEnergy — including a believed $4 million payout to an “entity associated with an individual who subsequently was appointed to a full-time role as an Ohio government official directly involved in regulating the Ohio Companies,” believed to be the chairman — reveal bias that should have precluded him from hearing any cases involving FirstEnergy when he was PUCO chairman between February 2019 and November 2020. Based on the facts that have come to light, ELPC’s motion requests the orders in those cases be vacated and allow reconsideration of those proceedings.
“There’s a reasonable perception that a $4 million payout would raise doubts about Chairman Randazzo’s impartiality in cases before the commission involving FirstEnergy,” said Rob Kelter, Senior Attorney at ELPC. “The public has a right to fair decisions regarding monopoly rates and services. That fairness requires a commission’s decision process without any undue influence from the utilities it regulates.”
The ELPC motion comes after a series of events that occurred last week involving Mr. Randazzo and FirstEnergy, which also funneled more than $60 million in bribes through dark money groups to support state legislators who would then pass and defend a bill that would pay $1.3 billion in subsidies to the utility. On Monday Nov. 16, the FBI raided Mr. Randazzo’s home where boxes of materials were removed. On Nov. 19, FirstEnergy in a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosed a $4 million payment to a state regulator who was believed to be Mr. Randazzo. On Nov. 20, Mr. Randazzo resigned as commissioner, noting FirstEnergy’s SEC report and the FBI search of his home.