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Ohio House Dems Call For DeWine To Fire Staff Members Linked To Nuclear Bailout

Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) and Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma)
Andy Chow
Ohio Public Radio
Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) and Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma)

Democrats in the Ohio House want Gov. Mike DeWine to fire two members of his staff in response to new information to come out related to the nuclear bailout bribery case. But DeWine's office said that's not going to happen.

Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma) and Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) said DeWine should fire his advisor Laurel Dawson and legislative liaison Dan McCarthy.

The representatives said the actions of both staff members warrant their termination.

DeWine said Monday that Laurel Dawson, his chief of staff at the time, was informed by Sam Randazzo that he was paid $4.3 million by FirstEnergy before becoming chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Dawson was told in October 2020 but did not reveal this to DeWine until November 2020, when the FBI raided Randazzo's home.

DeWine's office said they were told that money was part of a contract termination agreement between Randazzo and FirstEnergy.

Last week, FirstEnergy declared in a deferred prosecution agreement that money was part of a bribe so Randazzo "would perform official action in his capacity as PUCO Chairman to further FirstEnergy Corp.’s interests relating to passage of nuclear legislation," according to the court filing.

McCarthy, who previously worked as a lobbyist for FirstEnergy, created a 501(c)4 called "Partners for Progress" before leaving his company to work in the governor's office. Federal investigators say "Partners for Progress" was used as a dark money group for FirstEnergy to funnel funds help former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, in exchange for passing the nuclear power plant bailout bill.

Weinstein said, while no one in the governor's office is facing charges, they should still be fired considering the role they play as government employees.

"They should be held to a higher standard. With great power, which they have and they wield, comes an extra high level or responsibility to Ohioans. They have failed that test massively, and they need to go," Weinstein said.

But DeWine's spokesperson, Dan Tierney, said that's not going to happen adding that Dawson and McCarthy "have done great work for the state of Ohio and they’ve done nothing to warrant such action."

For Dawson, Tierney points out the belief that the payment was money to terminate a contract between FirstEnergy and one of Randazzo's companies.

As for McCarthy, Tierney said the federal corruption investigation is a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case focused on Householder's attempt to become House Speaker and in return pass HB6.

"McCarthy left his position prior to Householder becoming speaker, left prior to the introduction of House Bill 6. So the idea that he was involved in these activities is not supported by the timeline nor the facts," Tierney said.

Along with calling on staff members to be fired, Crossman and Weinstein want DeWine's office to release every document related to the selection of Randazzo to the PUCO and House Bill 6.

Crossman says the information in FirstEnergy's deferred prosecution "further intensify the need for unprecedented amounts of transparency and accountability."

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.