COLUMBUS – As the deadline for Gov. Mike DeWine to select a new member of PUCO approaches, just one of the finalists – Greg Poulos – is qualified to fill the vacancy, said Common Cause Executive Director Catherine Turcer.
“Mr. Poulos is the only contender with strong consumer credentials and who does not have financial ties to utilities or clear conflicts of interest,’’ Turcer said. “His appointment would help the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio begin to restore public trust in its important mission.’’
In December, Common Cause released summaries of the other finalists. One owns stock in Ohio utilities and another has a history of receiving campaign donations from them.
The opening comes amid a federal bribery investigation that centers on the passage of Ohio’s nuclear bailout law. The probe led to the November resignation of Sam Randazzo as PUCO chair soon after the FBI raided his condo and after Akron-based FirstEnergy disclosed that it paid $4 million to a person meeting Randazzo’s description.
New revelations about the scandal have been breaking repeatedly over the past weeks. Just today, Cleveland.com disclosed new information showing that Randazzo – while serving as Ohio’s top utility regulator – helped shape the nuclear bailout law designed to benefit FirstEnergy and American Electric Power.
Five people, including former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, have been indicted in connection to the bribery scheme and two have entered guilty pleas. Randazzo has not been charged or accused of wrongdoing. Clearly, selecting a new PUCO member outside the influence of FirstEnergy is of the highest priority, someone who will, first and foremost, represent the interests of Ohio’s utility consumers.
DeWine faces a January 21 deadline to either nominate one of the four finalists selected by the PUCO Nominating Council or ask the Council to screen and present him with new finalists to replace Randazzo.