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Lawmaker Disputes DeWine's Claim That Randazzo's FirstEnergy Ties Were Known Prior To Appointment

Sam Randazzo, now-former PUCO chair, testifies in the Ohio House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight on September 16, 2020.
The Ohio Channel
The Ohio Channel
Sam Randazzo, now-former PUCO chair, testifies in the Ohio House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight on September 16, 2020.

FirstEnergy said it paid a bribe of $4.3 million dollars to Sam Randazzo before he became chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he didn't know about the bribe until late 2020, but insists that Randazzo's past work with FirstEnergy was common knowledge. That's a claim others are disputing.

When DeWine was pressed with questions regarding his appointment of Sam Randazzo as chair of the PUCO, DeWine said several times that "everyone knew" Randazzo worked for FirstEnergy in the past. 

Watch: Gov. Mike DeWine responds to questions about Sam Randazzo

But Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson), who sat through Randazzo's committee testimony on the nuclear bailout law which is now at the center of a federal corruption case, said DeWine's comments "strain credulity." 

"We had some suspicions and some idea that Randazzo had a connection to FirstEnergy. But we simply couldn't pin him down on that," Weinstein said.

In September 2020, Weinstein asked Randazzo during a House committee meeting if he ever "had contracts or done business" with FirstEnergy.

Randazzo replied, "I'm old school on clients, and will not disclose clients I may have had in the past." He went on to add that before becoming chair of the PUCO, he never represented as a "lawyer or lobbyist" a utility that's regulated by the commission.  

Watch: Rep. Casey Weinstein ask Sam Randazzo about ties to FirstEnergy in September 2020

While DeWine said Randazzo's previous work for FirstEnergy was common knowledge, Randazzo did not disclose that information outright on his cover letter to the PUCO nominating council or during testimony on HB6, the law to bailout nuclear power plants formerly owned by a FirstEnergy subsidiary, in 2019.  

The bailout law created subsidies for two nuclear power plants owned by a former FirstEnergy subsidiary, while that part of the law has since been repealed other provisions FirstEnergy lobbied for are still in place.

Randazzo is named in FirstEnergy's deferred prosecution agreement in federal court and his home was raided by the FBI last fall. He resigned shortly afterward. Randazzo has not been charged with any crimes. 

Read: Sam Randazzo documents to PUCO nominating council

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.