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Calls For PUCO To Investigate Former Chair, And Consider Direct Election

Jan 28, 2021

A 2016 meeting of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
Credit Ohio Public Radio

Environmental advocacy groups have asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to expand their investigation of a bribery scandal to include an examination of the panel's former chair.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center and Ohio Environmental Council submitted a filing asking to investigate whether Akron-based FirstEnergy tried to influence former chair Sam Randazzo. He resigned soon after the FBI searched his German Village townhome and FirstEnergy said former top executives paid a utility regulator matching his description 4 million dollars to end a consulting contract. 

Meanwhile, there are calls for people serving on the commission to  be elected by voters instead of being appointed by the governor. Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports. 

Among the opponents to electing PUCO commissioners is Ned Hill, a professor of Economic Development at Ohio State University. He’s concerned about dark money from undisclosed donors in races that are way down the ballot, and about extreme far right or far left candidates turning up in those contests.

 

“You’ll have these commissioners essentially coming through, or could be coming through the primary system. And that scares the bejesus out of me.”

But supporters say commissioners would have to campaign, and that would make them more accountable to the best interests of consumers and the state and not just utilities. Governor Mike DeWine has asked for new candidates for PUCO chair after rejecting a list of nominees.