Customers are owed more than $6 million from FirstEnergy, according to an audit report released Aug. 3 by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
The $6.6 million collected from ratepayers was part of more than $24 million in payments identified by FirstEnergy as “improperly classified, misallocated or lacked supporting documentation” in a report to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The audit examined payments to 17 vendors over 10 years.
A dozen of those payments were to Tony George, a Cleveland businessman; two went to Sam Randazzo, former PUCO chief who resigned last fall after the FBI raided his home in connection with the FirstEnergy investigation.
FirstEnergy did not tell the third-party auditor, Blue Ridge Consulting Services, why the payments were labeled as such, according to the audit.
Blue Ridge recommended that $3.5 million in refunds be given to Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company customers, about $2 million to Ohio Edison customers and about $1 million to Toledo Edison customers.
A PUCO administrative law judge will establish a procedural schedule in this case to determine the next step. The audit report is a part of the PUCO’s four separate and ongoing proceedings to investigate issues related to FirstEnergy and the passage of House Bill 6 during.
FirstEnergy was federally charged last month with bribing key Ohio officials to pass House Bill 6, the legislation that included a $1 billion bailout for the state’s two nuclear plants that are owned and operated by a FirstEnergy subsidiary.
The Akron-based company agreed to pay $230 million as part of a deferred prosecution agreement that could result in the federal charge being dismissed.
As part of the agreement, FirstEnergy acknowledged how it paid former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and Randazzo millions, funneled through dark money groups, to get the ratepayer-funded bailout to pass. House Bill 6 also gutted the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards and gave out subsidies for coal plants and utility-scale solar farms.
Householder’s attorneys said the donations made by FirstEnergy were not bribes but legal payments. He maintains his innocence. Householder was re-elected after being charged federally last summer in the bribery case, but the Ohio House voted to expel him in June.
Randazzo said in a statement that “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.”
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