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Four Candidates Make List To Replace PUCO Chair Who Resigned After FBI Search

This Oct. 5, 2011 file photo shows the cooling tower of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio.
Amy Sanceta
/
Associated Press

The list of possible successors to take over as chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has been narrowed to four. The new chair will succeed Sam Randazzo, who resigned last month after being implicated in a FirstEnergy report.

Randazzo stepped down in late November after news of the FirstEnergy SEC filing, which said several former executives made an improper $4 million payment to a firm tied to a future utility regulator. That report came several days after FBI searched and retrieved several boxes from Randazzo's townhome in Columbus, although Randazzo has not been officially declared the subject of an investigation.

The PUCO Nominating Council submitted four names from a list of interested candidates to Gov. Mike DeWine: Angela Amos, Anne Vogel, Greg Poulos and Judith French.

However, some advocacy groups want more information about those candidates. Common Cause Ohio’s Catherine Turcer is among those asking for the four nominees for chair to voluntarily disclose all work they have done with utilities, their consultants, and lobbyists over the past decade.

“So that we do not end up with yet one more commissioner on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that is so closely tied to utilities because Ohioans deserve better," Turcer said in a City Club of Cleveland forum.  "So many of us are really struggling to pay our utility bills. And these folks are supposed to not just think about the future of the businesses around Ohio, but they should be thinking about us. They should be focusing on consumers."

Good government and environmental advocates strongly criticized DeWine's appointment of Randazzo, a longtime utility lobbyist, to lead PUCO. Randazzo also owned a company that was a creditor for FirstEnergy, drawing criticism for potential conflicts of interest as PUCO reviewed FirstEnergy's role in an alleged nuclear bailout racketeering scheme.

Of the four candidates to replace Randazzo, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judi French is the best known. She's leaving the bench after being defeated by Democrat Jennifer Brunner in November.

On the Supreme Court, French has heard several cases involving utilities, including a 2019 ruling blocking $200 million in charges that FirstEnergy customers had paid for two years, finding that PUCO improperly allowed it to go forward. 

Three former PUCO commissioners are now asking for a full PUCO investigation into the allegations of wrongdoing by FirstEnergy.