On December 21, a collection of open government and consumer advocates and former Statehouse reporters who championed open and accountable government called on Governor Mike DeWine to require additional financial disclosure from applicants to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). 

Their letter calls for the governor to require all finalists to disclose all work they have done with utilities, their consultants, and lobbyists over the past 10 years including the nature of the work performed and the amount of compensation received.

“Ohio’s financial disclosure requirements are simply inadequate,” said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio. “We are urging Governor DeWine to require more robust disclosure for the applicants before he considers appointing one of them to the Public Utilities Commission. Ohioans should be able to ‘follow the money’; such disclosure will help Governor DeWine identify conflicts of interest and could help head off future problems.”

Faith in the PUCO was shaken by last month’s revelation that FirstEnergy made a mysterious payment of $4 million to an official tasked with regulating the company.  This filing with the Security and Exchange Commission revealed that this $4 million payment in 2019 was to terminate “a purported consulting agreement” that had been in place since 2013.  

Although the November 19th filing did not name the recipient of the money, Sam Randazzo fits the description of someone who “subsequently was appointed to a full-time role as an Ohio government official directly involved in regulating” FirstEnergy.  Randazzo was appointed chairman by Gov. Mike DeWine on February 4, 2019. The filing came after the FBI raided Mr. Randazzo’s condo as part of its ongoing investigation into corruption at the Statehouse.

A check of Randazzo’s financial disclosure statements lists no $4 million payment from anyone. It does, however, show that he was paid an unknown amount by the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio, a company he incorporated in 2010. The Sustainability Funding Alliance also turned up in a 2018 bankruptcy filing among the companies used by FirstEnergy’s generation subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions. It is precisely these kinds of self-dealings and conflicts of interest that could and should be exposed with more financial stringent disclosure requirements for future PUCO applicants. We should not need the FBI to expose after-the-fact the financial ties and machinations of PUCO applicants.   

Signatories to the letter include Douglas Jones, Director Emeritus National Regulatory Research Institute; Tom Roberts, NAACP Ohio Conference; Brandi Slaughter, Ohio Council of Churches; Jen Miller, League of Women Voters of Ohio; Catherine Turcer, Common Cause Ohio; Joe Hallett, Toledo Blade, The Plain Dealer, Columbus Dispatch 1985-2014; T.C. Brown, The Plain Dealer 1989-2006; Ted Wendling, The Plain Dealer 1999-2006; Will Skora, Open Cleveland; Jim Underwood, Horvitz Newspaper, The Plain Dealer 1985-1993.

Former PUCO Commissioners Ashley C. Brown, J. Michael Biddison, and Todd Snitchler also sent a letter today to Gov. DeWine urging the Public Utilities Commission to launch a Commission Ordered Investigation (COI).

Click here for a letter that Common Cause Ohio sent to the current members of the PUCO requesting that they provide additional financial disclosure to the public. 

To read the letter from open government and consumer groups and advocates to Gov. DeWine, click here.

To read the letter from former PUCO members to Gov. DeWine, click here.

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