by J.D. Davidson
Four days after FBI agents removed boxes from his home, and three days after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he didn’t see any indication the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio chairman was a target of an investigation, Sam Randazzo resigned as chairman Friday.
DeWine said on Wednesday that he was waiting for more information before calling for Randazzo’s resignation.
The FBI confirmed the search was part of a sealed investigation but said no arrests were planned at this point.
PUCO Vice Chairman M. Beth Trombold will serve as acting PUCO chairman until a new chairman is named.
“Regardless of disclosures of prior business relationships to you and your team prior to my PUCO nominating council interview, the impression left by an FBI raid on our home, the statement included in FirstEnergy Corp.’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission [Thursday] and the accompanying publicity will, right or wrong, fuel suspicions about and controversy over decisions I may render in my current capacity,” Randazzo wrote in his resignation letter.
On Thursday, FirstEnergy Corp in its filing showed it fired CEO Chuck Jones and two other senior executives last month over what it described as a questionable $4 million payment in early 2019.
The filing read the payment was made 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, including with respect to distribution rates. At this time, it has not been determined if the payments were for the purpose represented within the consulting agreement.”
Earlier this month, the PUCO initiated an audit of of FirstEnergy’s compliance with corporate separation laws and regulations. Already, the commission is investigating the company’s Ohio distribution utilities political and charitable spending.
Though not named in a federal indictment in a $60 million bribery and racketeering scheme that led to the arrest of former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder, FirstEnergy or Energy Harbor, which was formerly FirstEnergy Solutions, continue to reportedly be linked to HB 6.
– – –
An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. Davidson is a regional editor for The Center Square.