Home » Should Ohio regulators agree to U.S. Attorney’s request for another six-month hold on FirstEnergy/HB 6 probes? Editorial Board Roundtable
Business Defence Economy Environment Featured Global News News Ohio Politics United States

Should Ohio regulators agree to U.S. Attorney’s request for another six-month hold on FirstEnergy/HB 6 probes? Editorial Board Roundtable

CORRECTS THAT PLANTS ARE FORMERLY OWNED BY FIRSTENERGY - Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, center, walks into Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse with his attorneys, Mark Marein, left, and Steven Bradley, right, before jury selection in his federal trial, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, in Cincinnati. Householder and former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges are charged with racketeering in an alleged $60 million scheme to pass state legislation to secure a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear power plants formerly owned by Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy. Householder and Borges have both pleaded not guilty. (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

Last week, U.S. Attorney for Southern Ohio Kenneth L. Parker lodged another request that Ohio regulators defer, for yet another six months, their probes of FirstEnergy’s House Bill 6-related bribes and the Akron-based utility’s suspected other attempts to influence, distort and defang the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

“The United States understands that substantial discovery is underway in the PUCO proceedings, including written discovery and potential for depositions of numerous individuals and entities,” he wrote, as reported by the Toledo Blade. Parker argued that query could interfere with the ongoing federal investigation, The Blade reported, noting that the PUCO next meets on Aug. 23.

Not only is this Parker’s third requested six-month stay to Ohio regulators who have their own need to get to the bottom of FirstEnergy’s manipulations and maneuvering, but The Blade reports Parker “said he reserves the right to request an additional stay beyond that.”

For many, it’s a sign that the federal HB 6 investigation that already resulted in corruption convictions and yearslong prison terms for ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio GOP Chair Matt Borges has turned to the role of FirstEnergy and its then-CEO Chuck Jones and then-Senior Vice President for External Affairs Mike Dowling, both later fired.

FE has already admitted bribing former PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo in a deferred prosecution agreement in which it agreed to pay a $230 million fine. But more than three years after Householder, Borges and other Statehouse figures were arrested and charged, no one has been criminally charged for paying the millions in bribes at the heart of the case. Randazzo also has not been charged and asserts his innocence. In April, Jones and Dowling said in a court filing they faced “looming potential indictments.”

It’s not clear if Parker is also requesting a stay on an apparently separate FirstEnergy bribery probe by the Ohio Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission that the Akron-based utility recently disclosed it had received a subpoena for. Spokeswomen for both the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Ohio Attorney General’s office said they were not able to answer that question.

So should Ohio defer again to the federal probe or pursue its own investigations now? The Editorial Board Roundtable weighs in.

Leila Atassi, manager public interest and advocacy:

My knee-jerk reaction to this request is that we’ve waited long enough for the full scope of justice in this case. But then again, we know little about the complexities of the federal probe or how the state’s inquiry might impede that work. If a proper investigation requires more time, so be it.

Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio should defer to the federal prosecutors’ request. As one version of an old maxim has it, “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.” Ohio voters and consumers deserve to know all there is to know about the HB 6 scandal, and prosecutors can ferret out that information.

Ted Diadiun, columnist:

I’ve got more confidence in the U.S. attorney’s competence and ability to see that justice is done in this case than I do in the efforts of the PUCO or Ohio Attorney General’s office. If the feds say they need more time, give it to them. It’s taken so long, another six months isn’t going to make a difference. Just do it right.

Eric Foster, columnist:

Yes, Ohio regulators should defer. In general, a federal criminal investigation should hold sway over PUCO’s civil proceedings. Additionally, we editorialized in March about the failures of PUCO, so there’s little reason to hope their proceedings would result in any substantial change. That said, if Parker’s investigation does not yield any indictments, he will have some explaining to do.

Lisa Garvin, editorial board member:

Concurrent investigations by the PUCO and federal prosecutors could possibly complicate the ongoing case against FirstEnergy executives and former PUCO chair Sam Randazzo. I’m not sure I trust PUCO to be objective after Randazzo’s key role in HB 6. In any event, it’s time for prosecutors to either fish or cut bait, so Ohio can finally close this ugly chapter.

Elizabeth Sullivan, opinion director:

Yes, we need the PUCO and state legislators to grow a backbone and put up barricades against the special-interest influence-peddling that distorted their roles in the FirstEnergy/HB 6 bribery and corruption scandal. Investigating themselves is a good place to start. But the federal criminal probe has to take primacy.

Source: Cleveland



Ohio Miner is a global leader in the online news. We seek to inform and engage with our readers. Staffed 24 hours, seven days a week by a dedicated team around the globe, we deliver news from journalists around the world. We are contrarian truth-seekers and truthtellers. We are journalists united by a mission to inform and engage with our readers.

We bear witness to history as it unfolds and explain not just what happened, why it happened and what it means to our readers and the public.

We are contrarian, we are committed to the news, speaking truth to power.