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Chair Jenifer French wants to rebuild trust in Ohio utilities commission after scandals

Former Franklin County judge Jenifer French
University of Akron

The way Ohio regulates utilities and works with the state's largest energy providers has come under question following the House Bill 6 scandal.

The death of former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chair Sam Randazzo by apparent suicide earlier this year was the latest shoe to drop. Randazzo was indicted this year, alongside two FirstEnergy executives, for his actions as the state's top regulator.

The corruption investigations have so far resulted in prison sentences for former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former lobbyist Matt Borges. There's also growing mistrust in the state's utility regulation process.

Current PUCO Chair Jenifer French told WOSU the organization needs to do its job, and also do the right thing to improve public trust moving forward.

"There's no perfect recipe for restoring the public trust, but it's just doing what we think is the right thing and making ourselves accessible. And be a resource to the people of the state of Ohio to better serve them," she said.

French said she tries to make herself more accessible at meetings, and said that PUCO’s staff tries to communicate openly with the public.

The PUCO typically meets once a month in downtown Columbus at the Hexion Inc. building.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.